Anika Goes to the Movies: Belle

So I want to back up a bit since I didn’t get this website off the ground as soon as I wanted, and there have been some awesome movies this summer: Words and Pictures, Captain America:The Winter Soldier, How to Train Your Dragon 2, America:Imagine a World Without Her, The Hundred Foot Journey. And I think the one that touched me the most was Belle. So despite it already being out on DVD, I’m writing about it.

Quick rating: 4/5 stars, and I preordered the Blu-ray.

Ok, so SPOILERS!!

No, seriously SPOILERS!!!

THERE WILL BE SPOILERS IN THIS POST!!!!

If you continue reading and are shocked to find spoilers then you need to leave the internet. No really, please leave, you’re upsetting the other guests.

I loved this movie for what it was: a beautiful dramatization of historical figures and events. Also a great love story. I’m not looking to learn history from a movie. Almost ever. But I do like films that do the period they are couched in well, and that make you eager to go seek out the truth about the people and places you have just seen. I won’t go into what’s real v. what’s not here. I don’t really think that’s needful because the movie was just delightful.

The character of Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsey is immediately endearing. Seeing the poverty and uncertainty she comes from makes us long to help. Seeing the kindness of her father in not only acknowledging her, but seeing to it that she is taken care of, makes us like her more. She is more worth the loving, because he has bestowed worth on her. We love her more, because we love him for loving her. It’s a vicious love cycle, and it starts the movie off brilliantly. Moreover, she handles the indignity of having her skin color being a deciding factor of whether she is to stay in the high society her father wished to place her with an endearing grace. She could be rebellious and surly, refuse to stay. She could beg to leave with her father, and who knows, in real life she may have done those things. But in the film she is composed with a calm demeanor beyond her years. And the little actress that plays her, Lauren Julien-Box, is just scrumptious. All in all the beginning makes you happy that you spent inordinate amounts of money to sit in a dark room full of strangers, and you settle in to see what will happen next.

The relationship between Dido and her cousin Elizabeth Murray is a treat to watch as well. Elizabeth is dumb. Really dumb. Ok, mostly sheltered and naive, but still it’s hard not to notice what a dingbat she is compared to Dido. It is, however, easy not to hold it against her because of her sweetness, her genuine affection for her cousin, and her pretty face. Over and over again, like when Elizabeth is to “come out” into society and Dido is not because it is believed that no suitable marriage offer would ever be made to a black girl despite her wealth and status, we see Elizabeth genuinely distressed on behalf of her cousin. She expresses deep sorrow at being privileged in a way that her cousin is not. And yet, there is a very real tension that builds between the two that makes the relationship believable. All sisters know what I am talking about: the little jealousies, the unintended slights, the day to day disagreements that eventually become fighting words. The fight between them is viscerally satisfying because it makes their sisterhood real. Not to mention the “oh snap” worthy comebacks. And like all soul sisters they make up and move on together in time.

The romantic storyline is tangled up with the socio-political storyline of the slave ship Zong, whose legal battle is being overseen by Dido’s guardian Lord Mansfield. We understand early on that should the case not go well it will reflect in the relationship between Dido and aspiring young lawyer John Davinier. The juxtaposed pair of Dido and John is just great. They are wrong for each other on so many levels. Societally she is both his superior and his inferior. They both end up engaged to other people. They are both stubborn and passionate. And of course, they got off on the wrong foot. So it is super satisfying in the end when they, shock, attain Lord Mansfield’s permission to wed in the glowing wake of the legal outcome for which they were both longing.

Though there is much that is simply lovely about the film, it doesn’t spare you the unpleasantness that attends the time and the relationships either. The drama and gruesome reality of the merchant ship Zong and the people murdered for profit at sea, the assaulting/accosting (not really sure how to characterize it) of Dido by her soon-to-be-brother-in-law James Ashford, and Dido’s struggle to live comfortably in her own skin while facing the societal norms of white England make for poignant drama.

If there was a failing, I would liked to have seen the relationship between Dido and Lady Mansfield developed a little more. Of course, it’s possible that as an English lady of the early 1800’s she was rather aloof and full of her own concerns as many were. There may not have been much to build on there. Regardless I love seeing Emily Watson on screen.

As I said, I liked it very much. I bought it with all haste. I may go watch it now.

Regards until next time, when Anika Goes to the Movies: The Maze Runner

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