Belle (2014)


Belle
 
There are some films worth waiting for. This recent costume drama was one I had seen raved about in reviews, Twitter and other spaces all by people I trusted, but it sat around my house for possibly a month after its release before finally its story came to life on the television.  

Young Belle doesn’t fit in anywhere. She’s born of Jamaican and English descent, and to add more pain to the mixed birth, she has a father born of the aristocracy. She’s too grand a birth to fit in with the less fortunate, but not good enough to be accepted in full by her English family. The father she doesn’t know takes her back to his family estates following the death of her mother and leaves her in the care of his uncle and aunt (Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson) before he leaves to comply with his military duties. When Belle grows, she takes the name Dido (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and is raised along with her cousin, Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon), only to be held back from being accepted into society. She, like Elizabeth hopes of making a good match, only no respectable man will have her – even though she is one of the wealthiest women in England following her father’s death and his will leaving her the sole heiress to his vast fortune.  

When the family takes Elizabeth to London to enjoy the season, Dido is allowed to go, but isn’t expected to be accepted into society, until a young man, Oliver Ashford (James Norton) – a man from a wealthy family, takes a keen liking to Dido surpassing her family’s dreams of a prominent match. Also intrigued by Dido is a young, idealistic lawyer John (Sam Reid), whose education was once under the teaching of Dido’s uncle, but the two quarreled over John’s passion to see equal rights given to all men leaving John without a respectable place in society and Dido becoming accepted in a world she’s watched from the outside.  


Some cinematic masterpieces are of the sort that use a slower tempo of storytelling or a time and history to tell their story, which beautifully gives the audience a quieter story that is no less impacting as those that move at a lightning speed. Belle is one such story. I remembered seeing the trailers and beautiful promotional material back when the film was playing at film festivals, then promptly forgot about it. Fortunately avid fans of the film are a part of my Instagram timeline and I just *knew* it was a film I had to get my hands on, so I did – and happily the choice to purchase it was a wise one.
 
Reflections of Amazing Grace aren’t difficult to pull out of this script, even though Belle is generally a lighter approach to a movement that was very real and important to the abolitionist’s beliefs.  It gives us a hero who is willing to give up the opportunity for a chance at a more prosperous life to champion his cause and on the flipside, a heroine who suffers as a result of her misfortunate birth – one that allows her anything she materially wants, but limits her acceptance in society and family.

Belle

At first blush this does appear to be just another pretty face with its gorgeous promotional material; looking deeper reveals otherwise. There is so much more to this pretty masterpiece. The script is fantastic in terms of the beliefs Dido has as well as the progression of her acceptance into society – some of the characters may have been shortchanged in the script or not been as fully evolved as they might have been, however that is little to complain about in comparison to the loveliness to be found in this kaleidoscope of costume drama goodness. One of the more important and emotional issues that crops up in the film is the commission of a painting that pictures Dido and Elizabeth. Her reaction to this is telling to what her life has been, as is the misconception she harbored that perhaps she wasn’t as loved – or could be loved, as her fair and beautiful cousin. The quiet in the scene is what makes it powerful.

Belle
As any costume drama worth its salt would, again the costuming is beautiful. Belle is able to give the viewer some gorgeous finery to drool over and this production is no different – the dresses, the gentleman’s attire, the color, the hairstyles everything is spot on elegantly refined and complimentary to the era. Also talented are the cast who each add something good to the roles. I was particularly impressed with the two young stars; both women had an emotional role to fill and each one played it well with strength and vulnerability in equal points of their character arcs. Packing the best emotional punch is the knowledge that this is based off a true story and the ending bios for the characters in the story adds a nice touch and rings of truth to know we’ve just witnessed events that did happen in timeline of history – even with the license of drama to adapt the story, Belle is worth seeing and is easily one of my new favorites.
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Rissi
18 Comments

18 comments:

  1. I'm so glad you liked it! I haven't seen ''Belle'' but it does seem to be a very nice film. I keep hearing wonderful things about this one. Maybe I should see it at some point. It's not too sad, is it?

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    1. It IS wonderful, Ganise; especially if you liked something like Amazing Grace. I admired the characters and it's fun to know Dido was a real person. Hope you enjoy it - and no, it's not terribly sad. It's saddest in the "getting there" than the actual end, which is fortunately, happy. :)

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  2. I've never even heard of this movie before! But it sounds good, so I just went and added it to my Netflix queue. :)

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    1. Fun! Hope when you see it, you enjoy Kristin. I thought it was elegant and just really lovely. :)

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  3. Glad you liked this one! I've been wanting to see it since I first saw the movie poster at our local theater. I'm hoping our library will get a copy soon. :)

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    1. Hope you enjoy, Hayden - I think it's one of the sweetest recent costume dramas there is. :)

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  4. Happy to hear you liked Belle. It looks like a beautiful period piece. I'll keep an eye out for it when it comes to a movie channel. :-)

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    1. So good, Kate - and I certainly hope you enjoy it if/when you see it too. :)

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  5. I am so glad to hear this is good:) T
    his has been on my tbw list for a while, so I am thinking about buying it.

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    1. It is, Ella. Very moving kind of film - and if/when you see it, I sure hope you enjoy. :)

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  6. I've been interested in this movie, and your review makes me even more anxious to watch it! Maybe I'll ask for it for Christmas :)

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    1. Good idea, Cassie - I've been starting my "to-buy" for Christmas lists and it's proving to be a challenge! Hope when you see Belle, you enjoy it. :)

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  7. Okay, now I really need to sit down and watch this one!

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  8. This is such a lovely review, Rissi! I watched this one with my sister last month and we absolutely loved it. I actually prepared myself for a horrible ending, but the ending turned out to be perfection. LOVED reading your thoughts on this one--thanks for sharing! :)

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    1. I agree with you and your sister; this movie was wonderful - and like you, I didn't really think about the ending ahead of time though did begin to think (while watching it), "this is going to end badly!" Fortunately, we were book proven wrong. Beautiful film and great acting. Definitely a 2014 winner in my rankings. :)

      Thank you for reading! Had a great time reviewing this one. :)

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  9. I've been seeing people rave over this movie ever since it came out and been very intrigued. Now that I know you loved it, I'll definitely have to find a copy! :) Also, it was really nice to read what it was about. As much as I've seen about it, I still wasn't 100% sure what precisely the storyline was. So thanks! :)

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    1. Hope you can rave about it too, Kara! I really liked it. I don't know if it'll be one I'll watch over and over again (just because I don't know that my family liked it the same as I did), but it's one I wouldn't mind watching time and again. It's a gorgeous story plus anything akin to a costume drama is like catnip for me. Or something. ;)

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