Beauty and the Beast

Having given up on the concept of chronology in blogposting, I thought today I’d post on going to see the new live-action Beauty and the Beast film with spouse B and daughter T last week while we were in Missouri to visit T.

I remember going to see the animated Disney film with daughter E, who would have been about five years old at the time, with T being too young for movies. I was impressed with the beauty of the animation in the opening sequence and knew that we would buy and watch the video many, many times. We later had the soundtrack of the Broadway version. I was very interested in how this new, live-action film would fit into the Disney history with these other versions.

I was impressed with the new film. What I most appreciated was the addition of depth of characterization and backstory. Maurice, Belle’s father, is portrayed in a much fuller and more poignant way, set up by a new song near the beginning of the movie. We also learn more about Belle’s mother and about the prince’s parents, which makes the plot flow more easily.

I appreciated the new songs, which brought more emotion to the story, and which gave us an opportunity to hear the glorious voice of Audra McDonald.  I thought that Emma Watson did a good job as Belle and that her singing served the characterization well. I also liked the richness of the orchestration and the chorus numbers.

All in all, I liked this version of the story because it is more human – which is the moral of the story.

Philomena

Today I went to see Philomena at an early Saturday showing with only three other people in the theater. The setting matched the intimacy of the film.

Spoiler alert:  While I won’t reveal the entire plot, don’t read further if you plan to see the film and don’t want to know any of the crucial details beforehand.

Judi Dench’s performance in the title role is outstanding. It must be difficult to play a role based on a real, still-living person, but I found her portrayal of Philomena to be compelling and relatable. Philomena’s long-standing pain and guilt, enforced by the Church, society, and her lived experience, were palpable and made her indecision about how far to take the search for her son and his loved ones understandable.

What was most meaningful to me was the contrast between those who had hardened their hearts and were mired in being judgmental and unforgiving and Philomena, who was open to love and so was able to forgive those who took her son away from her and kept her from finding him in this life. Her ability to show mercy enabled her to find peace. That she was able to know that her son had loved her and Ireland and had searched for her as she had for him felt like it was not only a comfort but also a reward from God for her steadfast love.

Philomena, whose name can be translated as “powerful love,” was the one who taught us about God, mercy, family bonds, love, and forgiveness.