Tuesday, March 14, 2017
Beauty and the Beast SPOILER-FILLED Adoption Movie Review
Belle and her father live in a simple, French provincial town. While the town lives its normal, everyday life, Belle and her father Maurice are noted for their peculiarity. Belle always has her nose stuck in a book, and most of the townspeople seem to think she’s strange. Belle is also particularly beautiful, and has attracted the unwanted attention of Gaston, a boorish and narcissistic military Captain who has the admiration of many of the local ladies. Gaston swears that he will marry Belle. She’s not interested, and so he will try to find a way to make the marriage happen.
Meanwhile, Maurice is captured by the Beast, a prince who has been cursed to take a horrific form on account of his unkindness; the curse will only be broken if the prince can learn to love, and earn love in return, and his time is running out. The Beast agrees to free Maurice if Belle stays with him, and Belle chooses to make that sacrifice. As Belle and the Best start to develop feelings for each other, Gaston decides that his next course of action is to storm the castle and kill the Beast.
(PLEASE NOTE SPOILERS AHEAD THE REST OF THE WAY)
The Adoption Connection
Belle and Maurice moved to this small town some time ago; Belle knows that she and Maurice left her mother while her mother was sick, but she doesn’t know any more; and Maurice can’t seem to tell her why it happened. At one point, Maurice said that he lost his wife, and he can’t bear the thought of losing his daughter. Eventually, Belle learns what had happened; her mother had contracted the Plague, and told Maurice to leave with Belle before Belle caught the sickness.
Some viewers might share the experience of having a missing parent and not knowing why. It appears to have been helpful for Belle to understand the reason for this aspect of her childhood.
The Beast lost his mother as a young boy, as well.
Several of the main characters get more backstory than they had in the original – we understand not just that the Beast had been an unkind prince – but we find out why. We find out what happened to Belle’s mother. But many of the songs are very, very close to the songs in the original animated film, so it will have the nostalgia element for many.
Several people take responsibility for not stepping in to help stop a young boy from being turned cruel by his cruel father.
Although Belle does not remember her mother very much, Maurice does tell her that her mother was “fearless.” It’s a good word for Belle to carry, and she in turn acts fearless later in the film.
One character offers very sage advice, “People say a lot of things in anger; it is our choice whether to listen.” Sometimes it’s hard not to believe hurtful things that have been said, but it might help some children to hear that it’s OK to not believe everything an angry person has ever told them.
The Beast is pretty scary, and might frighten some young children.
It seems unfair that the enchantress who punished the prince by turning him into a Beast also extended her curse to everyone that lived in the Beast’s castle.
When Maurice tells Gaston that Belle will never marry him, Gaston knocks Maurice unconscious, and ties him to a tree, intending to leave him there for wolves to eat him. Gaston explains that, if Maurice dies, Belle will have no one to support her, and that will make her more likely to turn to Gaston. He has already told Belle that women who don’t marry before their fathers tie turn into beggars. Maurice escapes and returns to accuse Gaston, but Gaston has him locked up, and will send him to an asylum unless Maurice gives over Belle’s hand in marriage.
Gaston shoots the Beast three times, including twice from behind after the Beast had shown him mercy. It’s surprising, sad, and could be frightening for kids who’ve experienced violence.
The townspeople are unkind to Belle because she’s different from them. At one point, they throw her clean laundry onto the street.
Some kids might have a hard time with scenes involving Belle’s mother’s sickness and death. One of the kids I watched with was also frightened by the appearance of the plague doctor, who wore a frightening birdlike mask.
One of Gaston’s friends is conscious-stricken but ultimately lies, saying that Gaston did not try to kill Maurice.
The new version of Beauty and the Beast feels to me like the 2015 Cinderella remake. It’s live-action, but quite familiar. It’s a musical, but it’s got dark, sad, and scary parts. I recommended 2015’s Cinderella for kids ages 10 and up, and suggested that parents should be present when their kids watch it. I’ll stick with the same recommendation for this one; it’s got some sad and scary parts that might be too hard for some younger viewers; kids 10 and up will probably be fine, but it’d be best for parents to be there to help their kids process some of the hard moments, and the theme of parental loss. The 11-year-old that I watched this with suggested that it might be good for 8 or 9 and up, but that younger kids might find it scary.
Questions for Discussion
Why couldn’t (or wouldn’t) Maurice tell Belle what had happened to her mother? How was it helpful to Belle to know?
What made the Beast so cruel? Why do you think Gaston was cruel?
What could have turned Gaston into a good guy?
When has someone shown you grace?
Belle liked to read, and that made her unique. What are some ways that you’d like to be unique?
What are your favorite stories?