It’s the most shocking rose ceremony yet. Will the Beast successfully woo Belle, the small-town girl living in his castle’s lonely turret? Or will he instead succumb to his roguish tendencies and spend the rest of eternity alone as a bison? The fate of countless not-so-inanimate objects hangs in the balance! NO PRESSURE, BELLE!
Theirs begins as so many love stories do: Long ago, back when the Beast was a human prince and Belle was probably an unborn fetus, a witch stormed one of his extravagant galas. She turned the royal teen into a monster and trapped him inside his castle until the day he learned to love someone as much as witches love teaching men lessons. Meanwhile, Belle grew up to be her village’s weird-but-hot girl. You know, the kind who’s not like other girls, because other girls suck. Belle lives between the pages of books, and longs for something beyond her provincial life—a beast, perhaps?
For years, this Beast waited for the right woman to stumble upon his wintry estate. And to be honest, at first it seemed like Belle wasn’t there for the Right Reasons. (To make the Beast feel human. To remind him that life’s worth living if he opens his heart to love. See also: “Manic Pixie Dream Girl.”) She arrived after searching for her father, who the Beast had conveniently imprisoned for picking a flower. Talk about a meet-cute! Belle had to sacrifice her freedom so her sick dad could leave the castle, but the hostage lifestyle isn’t so bad. Really, she’s totally into it now. The Beast gives her everything she needs: her own room, warm meals, plenty of antiques to talk to, a library full of books. Plus, he only yells at her when she touches his stuff. Super sweet guy, though!
The clock’s ticking—the final rose is starting to wither, and with each petal that falls, the Beast gets one step closer to becoming a full-on monster instead of his current monster/human hybrid. What’s more, the hyper-masc Gaston is vewy mad that Belle rejected him, and maybe also a little concerned that she’s falling in love with her captor, so he’s riding toward the castle to slay the Beast. Oh, and Gaston’s flamboyant sidekick Le Fou (which, predictably, is French for “the fool”) is in love with Gaston, signifying the grand entrance of Disney’s first openly gay character—a truly remarkable feat, since it seems none of the writers have ever met a gay person IRL.
Back to our chaotic finale! It’s a tale as old as time—the kind of beautiful love story that subtly normalizes stuff like kidnapping and bestiality. If you’re not completely numb, mentally and emotionally, it might be difficult to see past the film’s disturbing elements, which are exacerbated by the live-action format (watching Emma Watson tenderly gaze at Dan Stevens as a buffalo for two hours made me feel like I needed to take 250 showers).
Thankfully, there are many distractions. The film’s pastoral landscapes of the French countryside are aesthetically pleasing, though I could’ve enjoyed more kitsch. Its glitzy musical numbers will make you feel like you’re stoned on a Carnival cruise. But the one unforgivable flaw of resurrecting Beauty and the Beast in 2017 is that we’ve already had another movie handle the monster love story better. It’s called Shrek.