The tale is as old as time, but there are ample reasons to delight in the live-action reboot.



A few things you should know before you read this:

No. 1: This is not a movie review. We leave that to Anthony Alvarado, and he does a great job. This is a dialogue between two friends who love to talk about movies and books and how they stir our hearts with loveliness and truth and help us see the gospel in a new way.

No. 2: We both absolutely love fairytales and retellings of fairytales. Just ask our kids. Or check the bookshelves in our homes. This is not an objective piece about a movie. It’s a very subjective piece about what we loved, what made us laugh and what made us cry. And instead of fighting over which one of us got to write this piece, we decided to write it together.

No. 3: Although the plot of Beauty and the Beast is no secret, we delve into lots of movie specifics in this dialogue. Consider this your spoiler warning.

No. 4: If you are wondering what we thought of LeFou, you’ll find our thoughts at the end. But please don’t skip the rest—this movie has much more to offer than controversy.

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Tina Wilson: Ever since the original Beauty and the Beast was produced in 1991, Belle has been my favorite Disney princess. Partly because there was finally a heroine who had brown hair like mine. But mostly because she loved to read, because she was spunky and feisty and unafraid to speak her mind, and because everyone considered her a little bit odd.

Steph, what did you think of Belle in this film?

Stephanie Carney: Oh, Belle. I loved Belle. I’ve always liked her as a heroine, but this time I connected with Belle on a deeper level, in part because the film wasn’t animated, but also because much has changed in my life over the last 25-ish years. I admire that she is confident in who she is, even though it is challenging in her town. She approaches each day with hope, tenacity and kindness.

Tina, you mentioned Belle and her brown hair. I distinctly remember this when I first watched the movie. My whole life I wanted blonde hair and I blame Disney. This movie had more than just brown hair, though. As a mom of a multi-racial family, I loved the casting in this movie. I thought of this quote from the book Maniac Magee (great book, btw) where Maniac describes the diversity in his town: “The colors he found were gingersnap and light fudge and dark fudge and acorn and butter rum and cinnamon and burnt orange. . . . He looked himself over pretty hard and came up with at least seven different shades and colors on his own skin.” This is what I saw in Beauty and the Beast and I so appreciated it, especially for the hearts of my girls.

Tina, what lovely things captivated you in the movie?

Tina: The first thing that struck me was the visually stunning nature of the film itself, from the costumes, to the town, to the snowy woods and the castle. I appreciated that the filmmakers stayed true to the original but also developed and fleshed out certain aspects of the story further.

For example, I loved that Belle wore boots and kilted her dress so she could readily ride a horse and that we saw her working in the garden. Watching this with my daughter, I loved that Belle seemed so comfortable in her own skin. She recognizes that others see her as “odd,” but she doesn’t see why that is a problem. She’s fine with being different because she values her own uniqueness.

Steph: She was also an advocate for literacy and taught girls in her village to read in spite of much opposition. Her father said it so well when Belle asked him if she were odd: “I knew another she who was ‘odd,’ ahead of her time. People mocked her…until the day they all found themselves imitating her.” I loved this for at least two reasons. First, we saw how much Maurice loved Belle’s mother and, secondly, it showed the strength, sweetness and depth of Belle’s relationship with her father. Who she is stems from her father’s values and character. Her father’s love allows her to rest in the beauty of her “oddness.”

I sense a gospel theme here...

Tina: And that is what makes Belle stand out, in good ways, even though others don’t always understand or appreciate her.

 

Gaston: That’s what makes Belle so appealing—she hasn’t made a fool of herself to gain my favor. What do you call that?

LeFou: Dignity?

Gaston: Isn’t it attractive!

 

While she does respond emotionally at times, Belle doesn’t let those emotions rule her life. She is able to move beyond her initial reactions to see the possibilities in others. Despite the “oddness” of everything at the castle, Belle chooses to see the possibilities in others and the dignity and humanity that lies beyond their exteriors. I especially appreciated her efforts to try to understand what caused the servants to stay there, even at great cost to themselves.

Steph: Toy Story characters have nothing on the servants of the castle. Can inanimate objects receive an Oscar? Even in her circumstances, Belle treated the servants and Beast as deeply “human,” so to speak. She wanted to understand—even in her hurt, confusion and anger.

 

Belle: He’s cursed you somehow?! Why?! You did nothing!

Mrs. Potts: Exactly. When the lad lost his mother and his cruel father twisted him up like that…we did nothing.

 

Mrs. Potts goes on to explain that they knew their inaction helped create the monster he became. They contributed to his curse and they would stand by the Beast—helping, serving and caring even if the curse could not be broken. Belle takes this truth to heart. As she processes her thoughts (through song, as any self-respecting musical should do), she poses the question: “How in the midst of so much sorrow can love and hope endure?”

I loved this.

Tina: Sorrow. I guess that brings us to what brought us to tears in this film. Tears as a response to glimpses of grace.

For me, that happened as I watched scenes unfold where the servants lose more elements of their humanity and, finally, turn completely into objects. These scenes were heart-wrenching—watching the hands of Cogsworth or the keys of the piano slow and then stop.

But what really misted me over was watching the servants as they realized what was happening and desperately trying to connect one last time with those they loved: Mrs. Potts reaching for Chip, the piano and the armoire reaching for one another. In the face of loss, when there is no time left, the only thing that matters is reaching for the hands of the ones we love. Such a visually stirring reminder that we are made for relationship, for loving others rather than self.

And then, when they all came back to life...glory!

Steph: Um, yes, sobbing in the theatre. (It’s very hard to sob quietly.) This scene beats out the furnace scene in Toy Story 3, which still gets me every time. We are created for relationship. Community matters.

Tina: For me, this was the most gospel-centric part of the film. Where there was death, now there is life restored. No more are the servants or the Beast bound by the curse. They are restored to their true selves, but also to their relationships. Families are brought back together, memory is restored and they are given a renewed ability to live as they were originally intended.

Yes, I was happy that the Beast was restored to his original form and he and Belle end up happily ever after. But what stirred my heart most was the restoration of the relationships that had been lost.

Steph: While watching the Beast I thought much of the line from Cinderella when Ella speaks of her step-family’s treatment: “They treat me as well as they are able.” Everybody has a story. The Beast has a story, one that profoundly impacts his ability to love. But, his servants and Belle chose to learn his story and to loyally stand by him through all of the mess and darkness. They chose to see what could be instead of what is. This makes all the difference for his redemption. Alone he is lost, as we all would be.

Tina: The love of the Beast’s servants for their Master, and of Belle for all of them, brings hope to those who had lived without hope and brings about beautiful, extravagant change. As I think of that I am reminded of these words from Romans 12 (The Message): “Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help [the] needy . . . be inventive in hospitality . . . discover beauty in everyone.” For me, that is the heart of this film and why I found it so gospel-affirming.

Steph: So, the large purple elephant in the room: What did you think of how the film handled LeFou?

Tina: The word that comes to mind is irksome. I wanted to be able to leave the film appreciating LeFou for his change of heart at the end rather than thinking back through his awkward moments with Gaston. Unfortunately, it is probably the latter that will stick in my head. It was a subtext that I felt detracted from an otherwise delightful film.

You?

Steph: A few words come to mind. Frustrated and disappointed being two of them. I did not appreciate that I had to do research before taking my daughter to this movie. I felt some things should be off-limits for political agendas, but I realize that is not the world that we live in. I went to Plugged In and read the section detailing every sexual reference/innuendo before my daughter and I went to the movie. After reading the list, my first thought was that Shrek and other animated movies had more innuendo than what I saw in Beauty and the Beast. Not to say that I think it is appropriate or warranted or okay, just that this movie is not the enemy. When it comes to developing a Christ-centered worldview, we need to be intentional in conversation with our kids, not picking one movie to burn at the stake as if it is more harmful than a hundred other things that we engage with every day.

The director, Bill Condon, made a point that it was a goal to normalize homosexuality in this movie. Whether he accomplished that, I can’t say. What I can say is that he was gifted a gospel-laden literature classic with an abundance of soul-enriching storylines. And with this gift he created an achingly beautiful movie, (mostly) true to the original that even enhanced the aforementioned storylines. But, in all the interviews I read, the director only spoke of LeFou. I almost believe he missed his own movie. He should have let the movie speak for itself even with his revisionist storylines.

Tina: I’ll buy the DVD when it comes out and watch it multiple times with both my kids (11 and 6). But at some point I’ll have to have a conversation with my 11-year-old about LeFou’s portrayal in this film. It’s a conversation we’ve already begun and will continue to have. But just as I will take the time to talk about God’s heart as it relates to gender and sexuality with my girl, so I will also take time to talk to her about the loveliness and gospel themes in this film.

Steph: Ditto on all of the above. Nearly every character (minus Gaston) experiences transformation of the heart. As I watched, I adapted lines from Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s famous poem: “How do I love this movie? Let me count the tears I shed.” Many, many tears: When indifferent inaction turns to unconditional love and loyalty, when cowardice changes to courage, and again and again when hope and sacrificial love ignite the darkness, literally and figuratively. So much beauty. God delights in bringing beauty out of our brokenness.