This weekend I took my little girl to see Beauty and the Beast. I could review the film, talk about how the live action musical was identical to the animation, mention how Emma Watson has a lovely voice but Luke Evans out-shined as the villainous Gaston, or rehash Disney’s obsession with dead moms. (To be fair, Disney takes the heat for hating moms, but it’s the original fairy tales that slaughter all of us. In fact, there is no mention of a mom in the original Beauty and the Best text, but there is a plethora of siblings!)
But the movie had me in tears not for any cinematic reasons or stunning acting. I was in tears almost immediately because I was watching the film through my daughter’s eyes, and as the musical unfolded I spent as much time watching her as I did Emma. She’s never seen the original Disney animation. Emma Watson was her first Belle, and a fine Belle she was. Despite that, my girl had the dress, passed down from a gift I gave my now teenage niece (gah!), and she saw the trailer – and that was enough for her excitement.
In full poufy, glittered yellow ball gown, she slid into the theater, much like Belle crept around the castle corridors, wondering what magic was waiting for her on the silver screen. She was the only person dressed up in the theater. My heart soared as “Oos” and “Ahhs” echoed from various corners of the audience when someone caught sight of my little Belle. When she sat down in her seat and I pulled up her hoodie (because as a mom you know never to let your head touch a theater chair for fear of lice), she had to pat down her tulle to see clearly. I kissed her and asked what she was most excited for.
“Belle and the special dog.”
Special dog?? I had no clue what she was talking about.
“The cute one that’s a rug with all the tails.”
Of course. Technically, he’s an ottoman, but she insists he’s a rug with table legs. Fair.
Then the Disney logo illuminated the screen, in full Belle castle regalia, and I felt that lump in my throat – the same lump that presented itself when I took my girl to see Cinderella. It’s those stupid happy tears. Crying because I can give my daughter the treat to be swept away from the stress of elementary school or the fears that plague a little one in the dark, and give her two hours of music and magic and fantastical colors and characters alive on the silver screen – the magic of the movies.
I’m also a sucker for musicals. I sing around the house, the car, at work, more than any family member or others want to hear. No, it isn’t because I have a voice like Rihanna and wasn’t discovered. I just like to sing DISPITE my voice. There are times I’m belting out King George from Hamilton while prancing around the kitchen – wooden marinara spoon in hand – and I think how much like my mom, the one who used to dance to Donna Summer and sing Barry Manilow throughout our home, I’ve become.
Somewhere in the middle of the opening number and shouts of “Bonjour! Bonjour!” my mom was there with us. She was obsessed with France and Provence, and every pattern on every actresses dress in the village reminded me of her. We even had little French dolls in my childhood house clothed in white aprons over corn-flower blue fabric spotted with yellow and maroon designs. Then I looked over at my girl and thought how blessed I am to get to be her mom.
Lately my girl has been asking about my mom. She knows my mom died many years ago. Much like Belle’s mom who died of the plague, mine died of cancer. At one point, my girl leaned into me in the dark of the theater and whispered, “Is Belle’s mom dead?” I paused. Part of me didn’t want to answer this question. It opens the can of worms – if mommy’s mom died and Belle’s mom died, then my mom can die. Sigh. “Yes, sweetie,” I said. She didn’t ask any more or need further explanation.
Beauty and Beast wasn’t made to shatter the Oscar nominations. It wasn’t scripted to break new boundaries in screenwriting. It’s an adaptation of an adaptation that pretty much glorifies the Stockholm syndrome, although at its core the theme is don’t judge a book, or person, by their cover.
This movie was made for the next generation, those who haven’t seen the original Disney animation or those who saw and keep the story close to their heart. It isn’t perfect, but for a little girl missing the grandmother she never knew and a mom who just wants to see magic reflected back in her girl’s eyes, it was a perfect morning full of music and dancing and laughter and – oh yeah – tears from me.
Or just follow this blog.
Photos courtesy of Disney.