La belle et la bête (Beauty and the Beast) [2014] – Overview/ Review (with Spoilers)

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Overview

In this live-action adaption of the classic tale, CGI is used throughout to help this version stand out.

Review (with Spoilers)

Though this was released before Maleficent, I must admit the use of CGI made me compare the two throughout watching the movie. I’d even argue that Pathe was likely trying to cash in on a new version of this story before Disney got the chance to. That thought aside, the major reason behind seeing this was without a doubt is Lea Seydoux, as well as Vincent Cassel who I haven’t seen in a movie since Black Swan. But with a lot of new adaptations to classic tales due out over the next couple years, such as another Hercules and Cinderella movie, the question is: Does this movie make you think these classics should be left alone, or continue to be adapted for future generations?

Characters & Story

After multiple shipwrecks, and a promissory note unfulfilled, Le Marchand (Andre Dussollier) finds himself losing most of his wealth and being forced to live in embarrassment out in the countryside with his 6 children. Of said children, it is believed his youngest, Belle (Lea Seydoux), is his favorite and his eldest, Maxime (Nicolas Gob), his most troublesome. Why you may ask? Well, Maxime has a gambling problem and after Le Marchand is told he is broke, the embarrassment leads Maxime to leave and Le Marchand to look for him.

Unfortunately, though, unbeknownst to Le Merchand, Maxime’s name is infamous to the point of possibly getting killed over. Especially by one man named Perducas (Eduardo Noriega) who has especially been looking to collect his debt from Maxime. But, before Le Merchand receives harm to his person, luckily he is given the ability to escape which leads him to meet Le Bete (Vincent Cassel). Their meeting though only comes about due to Le Merchand seeking more beyond the gifts Le Bete bestows him and looking to get a rose for his dear Belle. So, in exchange for the rose he must offer a life, and with Belle being the guilt-ridden daughter she is, she switches places with her father and we live out the classic tale.

Praise

Let me start off by saying I have not read the source material for this movie, so I cannot tell you whether this is a true adaption of the original story or not. However, I can say that in comparison to the cartoon version this film does present quite an interesting story. For while the film surely could have cut down how many children Le Marchand had, they do add a bit more oomph to the tale.

Focusing on Belle/ Seydoux though, I do find it quite wondrous how even with this being only the third film I’ve seen her in, that she seems more versatile in her movie choices than a lot of actresses nowadays. For in Belle, she has a very classic feminine look and persona, though a bit of sass and resiliency to keep her from becoming a bore. Then, with Cassel as La Bete, I loved the fact they really gave us a well told backstory on the beast since the animated picture omitted any reason for why the beast was cursed. But this film corrects that mistake and creates quite a nice love story when it comes to La Bete’s first wife and then his love which blooms with Belle.

Criticism

In the intro, I made a comparison to Maleficent, due to the use of CGI, and both films being adaptations of classic tales. But, what wasn’t mentioned is that while Maleficent uses CGI well to enhance and forward the story, CGI does nothing good for Le belle et la bête. If just because there is such a misuse of it, in my opinion. For example, in the film CGI is primarily used to animate Gremlin-like puppies, and to animate these grand scenes in which la bête fought, or threatened, people using giant statues. In both cases, you are lead to wonder why this was done for the story. For while dogs were important to la bête in his human life, it did leave the plot hole of wondering who was cooking these grand meals he and Belle had. Then, when it came to the statues, I didn’t understand why la bête had access to their powers, and why they protected him, especially considering he was supposed to be punished for what he did. And really, considering how ferocious they made him out to be, it would have been cooler if they had him hunt down Perducas’ men as they stole from him over using what likely was expensive visual effects to create these stone creatures.

Leaving one last critique: In the film, there is this odd sense of time presented. Seasons change every few scenes from winter to spring and back, yet the film makes it seem that la bête’s castle doesn’t take months to get to, but merely hours. So, while I’m not usually one to notice consistency issues, this one was just glaring straight at you.

Overall: Worth Seeing

Honestly, I am really tempted to say this is “TV Viewing” for the solely due to the film’s odd use of CGI. For it really doesn’t add much to the story, outside of a few select instances. But with the performances from the actors being good, the backstory of la bête providing us with a nice sympathetic tale, and Seydoux’s grace, beauty, and performance embodying the perfect Belle, I find myself labeling this as Worth Seeing. And I truly hope in future adaptations/ remakes, of classic tales, there is a similar tone and focus on story as this film has, with hopefully CGI not being used as much in a wasteful manner.

Questions, Comments, or Opposing Opinion?