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'Beauty And The Beast' Review: Emma Watson As Belle

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"Beauty and the Beast" is a tale as old as time, and will forever hold a place in the hearts of Disney lovers.

The live-action version of the story will make its way to theaters on March 17, so movie fans will be able to watch the magic unfold on the big screen and listen to new, fantastical songs that bring the characters to life.

That's right, fans of the animated film will hear new versions of the original songs along with never-before-heard tracks specifically written for the new movie.

Emma Watson, who plays a modern-day version of Belle, will sing on-screen for the first time in her career along with Dan Stevens who learned to sing in order to play the Beast.

After attending a press screening of the film last night, I'm here to tell you the new movie lives up to the hype.

I won't give away too many spoilers, but I will tell you director Bill Condon filled plot holes from the animated film by giving viewers a deeper understanding of the characters' lives, specifically by creating a storyline centered around Belle's mother.

In the original animated film, Belle's mother was never a subject of question, but the live-action makes her a crucial component in understanding the depths of Belle's character.

We are first exposed to the storyline through a painting of Maurice's deceased wife holding Belle as a baby with a rose-shaped rattle.

The painting hangs in the main room of the family's cottage, which prompts Belle to constantly ask about her mother.

Maurice refuses to tell his daughter much, but he does call his wife “fearless” and says she — like Belle — was mocked by the village, but those who made fun of her were the ones who imitated her in the end.

Later on in the story, the Beast shows Belle a magical book that allows her to escape to any place she pictures in the world. He tells Belle,

Think of the one thing you've always wanted, and find it in your mind's eye and feel it in your heart.
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Immediately, the two are transported to the home of Maurice and his wife in Paris where Belle was born. She scans the room and looks for clues about her mother, when the Beast notices a medical mask lying on the chair.

We then see a flashback of Maurice when he was younger with his wife lying in bed. The doctor is with her and tells Maurice he must leave because his wife is dying from the plague.

The wife tells Maurice to take Belle with him and protect her from the disease. We learn, in this moment, Maurice called his wife "fearless" because she wasn't afraid to die alone if it meant saving her child.

The strength and bravery displayed by Belle's mother in that moment is exhibited in her daughter as she risks her life to protect Maurice and fight against the villainous Gaston.

Emma Watson has previously spoken about her desire to make Belle a more empowering force for young women in an interview with Total Film.

She explained,

There's this kind of outsider quality that Belle had, and the fact she had this really empowering defiance of what was expected of her. In a strange way, she challenges the status quo of the place she lives in, and I found that really inspiring. She manages to keep her integrity and have a completely independent point of view. She's not easily swayed by other people's perspective — not swayed by fear-mongering or scapegoating.

Part of shaping the character's identity meant giving the Disney Princess an emotional past, but it wasn't just Belle who became more complex.

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At one point in the live-action, we learn the Beast lost his mother when he was younger as well. These pasts, which didn't exist before, and the additional context of their upbringings, allow Belle and the Beast to form an empathetic relationship and really understand each other on a deeper level.

In the live-action, the Beast and Belle bond not only over their exclusion from the world, but also over the pain from their broken pasts.

Bill Condon delivers an incredible modern-day version of "Beauty and the Beast," and I encourage you to "Be Our Guest" and see the film in theaters March 17.

Citations: Dan Stevens Learned To Sing For "Beauty And The Beast" (EW)