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

 

Get Out

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

T2 Get Out

Get Out was made by writer/director Jordan Poole, a black man who slashes at the shallow understanding white people have of black culture. His movie is his command that white liberals face up to the truth that their level of acceptance is shallow, phony, and late.

The movie will be received by viewers according to the complex inner settings each of us has about race. The easiest way to react to Get Out is to surrender to pure anger at its violence but we can’t get away with the easy way in this case.

Why couldn’t Poole have made his points about white liberals in a way that might make us think, that might encourage us to work together? Because we wouldn’t have heard what he is saying. He suggests that we know nothing about black people being scrutinized by police and passersby whenever they are in public, that the culture of their neighborhoods is unknown to whites.

Look what he has done to wake us up. Rose (Allison Williams) is taking her black boyfriend Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) home to meet her family on their plush estate tended by housekeeper Georgina (Betty Gabriel) and handyman Walter (Marcus Henderson) – both black and odd. Dad (Bradley Whitford), a too affable neurosurgeon, and mom (Catherine Keener), a nutcase hypnotist, greet the lovers with a creepy kind of acceptance.

A gathering of friends and relatives arrives. On meeting Chris, the guests respond: Chris must be a good golfer because Tiger Woods is black and whites envy black bodies. Poole uses his perceived white jealousy of black minds and bodies to soak his movie in blood. The attitudes of the white guests are simplistic and crude and Poole
makes sure we understand those white simpletons are no more shallow than those of us who think we understand the problem even as we live in segregated cultures.

Do we have much to atone for? The British stole the continent from the Indians. Then they destroyed the Indians and brought black men to America locked in chains and sold them as slaves. The Civil War freed the slaves and left them in poverty. Two world wars distracted us until the ‘60s when desegregation was brought front and center in education and sports. And then progress slowed again. Fifty years later, we still live in segregated neighborhoods and cultures.

A horror/comedy is a popular movie format these days but when the subject is part of an uncorrected historical disgrace, it’s a shame that only a violent movie like this could make us look inward. Now that we’ve been kicked on this score, perhaps that format can be used to attack alcohol excess or how fraternities have weakened education, or the horror of wars wrought by men? Or how about the comedic horror of the president of the United States bestowing public approval and encouragement on sexual bullying of women? You’re a talented guy, Jordan Poole. You could do a great job on that one.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title Get Out
Word Count: 499
Running time: 1:44
Rating : R
Date : April 9, 2017