Beauty and the Beast

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast was written in 1740. Imagine the many versions of the story that have passed through the following centuries. And yet, one sentence carries its essence down through time: a handsome young prince imprisoned in the body of a beast can be freed only by true love. What a premise to hand to future authors about the power of love in all kinds of circumstances. The wonder of the new Walt Disney Pictures movie springs from new technology that allowed creative animators to wrap the story in full time magic. Add to this a set of performances that are subtle and irresistible.

Belle (Emma Watson) and the Beast ((Dan Stevens) spend much of the movie in the enchanted castle where all the beautiful objects – candelabra, cups, and furniture that surround them – are imprisoned in those forms while waiting for their salvation to arrive when at last the Beast is loved.

Belle is absorbed in ensuring the safety of her beloved father Maurice (Kevin Kline). His time is divided between their home village and the enchanted castle. Hers is spent unloading Gaston (Luke Evans), the arrogant, aggressive village suitor.

Today’s techies enable the castle itself to cast a beautiful spell by imaginative use of their new tools. The settings are magical. So what could go wrong? Casting? Not one mediocre performance.
Emma Watson’s Belle is never silly or vulnerable in any situation. She has grown from Harry Potter fame into a composed, subtle actor who has an inner antenna about the danger of overacting. She makes falling in love with the Beast a gradual, believable happening.

As her dad, Kevin Kline is also grand. He’s brave and loving with the vulnerability that comes with age and any audience understands instinctively why his protective daughter loves him so much. As the Beast, Dan Stevens manages – despite his hideous horns – to convey his inside self gradually as he falls in love with Belle. When love releases him, we see only a few moments of him as a human being. Probably, I think, so the audience won’t think of him as less than magical. The director was wise just to plant him in our imagination. In this case, the dream is better than reality.

Quality is guaranteed by the presence – actually or in voice – of Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, Audra McDonald, and Stanley Tucci. For all of you who no longer watch fairy tales, borrow a child for the afternoon from family, friends, or neighbors or go with a pal. Age doesn’t matter. Give thanks to Walt Disney Studios for releasing a good one in the spring and ignoring the practice of holding their best until Oscar season.

Beauty and the Beast is the rule breaking exception that will win hearts and endure. It is also one moment when technology and humanity meld in the best of ways – an old fashioned story in modern day dress. Have fun.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : Beauty and the Beast
Word Count : 495
Running time: 2:09
Rating : PG
Date : April 4, 2017


Year End Choices

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

Year End Choices

When you’re wondering which of this year’s movies to watch on TV, here are eleven with the magic ingredients that hold audiences in the best of ways. Some are good but violent, some are good and tender, and some are rooted in the power of truth. All of them are good.

Sing Street. This story grabs our hearts and never lets go. Anchored by a girl and boy falling in love, their shyness and their talent are thoroughly contagious as they dream of a better life through their music. (PG-13)

Hell or High Water is a Western that transcends the breed with absorbing character portraits by a fine cast. Watch the relationships develop slowly among a ranger, his Comanche sidekick, and two brothers. All are good, especially Jeff Bridges. (R)

The Shallows – Blake Lively shows us what can happen to an accomplished surfer when she ventures into shark territory off the glorious Australian coast. She’s controlled in the danger, and the special effects are numbing. (PG-13)

Moonlight – The young son of an errant mother is bullied in school and lost wherever he is. Actors deliver an unusually grim story with astonishing skill. This is what emptiness can feel like.

Manchester by the Sea – Casey Affleck shows us what happens to a man who cannot recover from an early tragedy. The film moves slowly as it develops a quiet sense of time, place, culture, and tragedy in a beautiful seaside town. (R)

Nocturnal Animals – This a vicious vengeance story with such high quality direction, acting, and atmosphere that you will carry your fear right out of the theater with you. Amy Adams, who left her husband, reads his novel about what happened when he decided to exact revenge. We watch in surprise and horror. (R)

La La Land – This one follows the growth of a beautiful love affair while everything around it erupts in musical joy. The inspired acting of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling is the unexpected serious and moving thread that runs through all the fun. Don’t miss it.

The next four will stun you with truth and relevance.

Sully. Clint Eastwood directs with uncommon humanity and the gifted Tom Hanks shows us the inner decency of the reserved Captain Sullenberger in his extraordinary emergency river landing of a plane hit by birds. (PG-13)

Snowden. The story of the man who revealed the breathtaking breadth of the spying on American citizens in violation of their fourth amendment rights by the NSA. His warning to us: “The battlefield is everywhere.” (R)

Hacksaw Ridge. This is Andrew Garfield’s extraordinary performance as a heroic conscientious objector during WWII. Filmed in the heartbreaking realism of young men destroying each other on behalf of two countries that would soon become allies. (R)

Loving – Acted with moving understatement by Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton, this is the story of the Supreme Court decision that ruled that love, not race, is the determining factor in marriage. A quiet couple at the center of nationwide change.

Film Critic: JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : Year End Choices
Word Count: 501
Date: December 25, 2016