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Movie Review: “Belle” is a Beautiful Tale Told by a Radiant Cast

In this day and age, if you’re young, beautiful, smart, and wealthy, you are the whole package!  Parents want to show you off, and boys are lining up to be with you.  But, in late 18th-century England all that money and poise meant nothing if your skin wasn’t the right color.

If you know the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, well then you already know how this film will end. And even if you don’t know the tale, you can make a pretty good assumption of what will happen.  Luckily the strong cast, led by the incredibly talented Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Larry Crowne), gives enough of a spell-binding performance to make us completely enthralled in this story.

After 12 Years A Slave, you may not want to endure another oppression piece.  Don’t worry; Belle is a much lighter true story with no images of physical abuse or even derogatory language.  This is actually a film the whole family can see.

Belle is a romantic drama about Dido Elizabeth Belle, the illegitimate daughter of Royal Navy officer Sir John Lindsay (Matthew Goode) and an African slave, who was brought to England by her father after he discovered he had a child with his former lover who was of African descent.  He then left Dido in the care of her great-uncle,  Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson), the Lord Chief Justice (the highest chief justice in the land) and his wife (Emily Watson) while Lindsay returned to his Royal Navy service.

At first the two are taken aback by the idea of raising Dido, especially since they are already caring for her cousin, Elizabeth Murray (Sarah Godson).  It isn’t long before the couple fall in love with Dido and treat her as if she were their own daughter.  The only difference is she is excluded from certain events that Elizabeth is allowed to attend, and she can not to eat dinner with the family when guests are in attendance.  So yeah…basically she’s living the dream life.  The funny thing is; Dido’s father has left her his entire inheritance so she is rich!  She doesn’t need a man to take care of her, unlike her cousin who desperately is seeking a wealthy husband.  Elizabeth’s father has left her nothing; therefore she is “penniless,” which apparently was a major turn off to guys back then.  It’s not exactly something Elizabeth wants to publicize to her top choice suitor (Tom Felton) either.

Dido, on the other hand, has different conflicts to deal with once a romantic relationship develops between her and an outspoken young lawyer, John Davinier (Sam Reid).  A union that Lord Mansfield strongly disapproves of because he feels Dido is of higher class, even though Davinier is his legal apprentice.  Their romance is sweet and best of all, it isn’t rushed.  It is easy to root for this couple from the moment they first meet.

I don’t think they could have picked a more perfect cast.  Gugu Mbatha-Raw is phenomenal, and I am certain we will be seeing plenty more of her beauty gracing the silver screen.  I do hope that Tom Felton will eventually clean up and be given a character that isn’t absolutely despised or disgusting.  A leading man role is just not looking very promising for him.

For a period piece, Belle moves fast.  There is no pointless dialogue or dragged out scenes.  It is an uplifting film that connects you with its tender love story and prevailing message of strength, courage, and proudly accepting who you are and what you believe.

Rating: 3.5/5

Belle hits theaters May 9.

Belle Official Trailer HD

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Theatre Review: “Beauty & the Beast” is a Terrifically Enchanting Musical

Rating: 4.5/5

It’s as true as it can be.  Disney fans will be in bliss as they watch one of the most beloved classics come alive on stage. Beauty & the Beast performed as a Broadway musical may seem like a tough feat with the surely difficult theatrics that the play would need to pull off.  Fortunately, AT&T Performing Arts Center’s Winspear Opera House put on a magical show that the whole family will enjoy.

Beauty & the Beast is one of the most beautiful tales of how the beauty within prevails over any outer appearance.  When Belle (Hilary Maiberger) sacrifices her own freedom in exchange for her fathers, she is forced to stay in an enchanted castle that is run by an angry and bitter Beast (Darick Pead).  To ease her distress, Belle is comforted by the other unusual members of the house who happen to be a candle stick, a clock, and tea pot.   Little does she know that the fate of everyone around her, including the Beast, hinge on whether or not she can fall in love with someone who looks like a monster.

Following the original Disney animated feature, this musical still contains the same script and music, but has added a few originals songs that go along with the familiar score.  The new songs blended in perfectly with the story, but they were no match for the classic soundtrack we all love to sing.  When “Gaston” is performed by the tavern patrons and the well-played arrogant Gaston (Tim Rogan), you might think “it doesn’t get any better than this.”  The musical number is humorous, creatively choreographed, and thoroughly entertaining.  But you have spoken too soon, because you have yet to witness the luminous, breath taking, work of art that is “Be Our Guest.”   The song begins with the voice of Hassan Nazari-Robati, who gives a stand out performance as the hilarious talking candle stick, Lumiere.  Hassan, along with the eloquent Kristin Stewart (not Twilight) who plays Mrs. Potts, lead the rest of the enchanted objects in a colorful dance that is enhanced by the vibrant set design (Stanley A. Meyer) and well produced lighting (Natasha Katz).  I am delighted to know that I will surely dream about dancing plates and silverware tonight.

They could not have cast a more perfect Belle.  Hilary Maiberger is no stranger to playing a Disney princess.  Having played Cinderella and Jasmine in previous musicals, she handled the role of Belle with such ease, and not once did she over act her character.  Her vocals are incredible, best out of the entire cast.  When she sings, goose bumps appear, as well as a smile on your face.  Her leading man played by Darick Pead did a fantastic job as the intimidating, yet sometimes juvenile Beast.

Beauty & the Beast the musical throws in some extra comedic moments that will only add to your laughter, and music that you will want to add to your play list.  I could go on and on about this lively performance, but I’d rather you allow yourself to be a guest and take pleasure in this remarkable “tale as old as time.”