Friday, July 4, 2014

Movie Review: Belle

I feel as though I am possibly the last person to see Belle so this review is late in coming.  Luckily it just came to my local theatre recently so I was finally able to see it.

In summary, Belle is based on the true story of Dido Belle Lindsay, the mixed-race daughter of the Navy officer, John Lindsay.  The film opens with Lindsay, a melodramatic man of feeling 'rescuing' Dido (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) from a slum and dropping her off at his uncle's (Tom Wilkinson) house after being very, very preachy about family duty.  She is thus raised with her sister-cousin, and fellow-unwanted daughter, Elizabeth Murray (Sarah Gadon).  The film centres around issues of race, class, and privilege.  The plot thickens when Dido's father (who she never met again) dies, leaving her an heiress.  Meanwhile her sister-cousin must find a husband or risk being penniless.  Moral of the story: it sucks to be an elite, eighteenth-century woman.
My love interest: that green gown

I enjoyed the movie: it was a good story, full of pretty, and the historical inaccuracies were at a minimum.  However the writing was very black and white, which left me wanting more nuance.  So many things were explained blatantly, as if it was in a school report.  This meant there was very little character development.  Dido and Elizabeth's close relationship was established through a shot of them laughing together and then substantiated by a lot of conversation about how close they were; yet it was rarely felt (from a viewer's point of view).  Dido's close relationship with her adoptive parents was much in the same way.  The love story was very 'meh,' possibly because her love interest (Sam Reid) was in the same ilk as Dido's father, a man of feeling.  If you haven't gathered already, that meant I was not in love

with him either.  Boyfriend needed to put a little more effort into his hair as well.  There was also an overarching issue of race vs illegitimacy.  Throughout the film Dido is told her race has put her in an inferior state of limbo, however many of the social issues she faces realistically stem from her illegitimacy. 
Lord Malfoy the Devonshire doppelganger

The acting was great from the more senior members of the cast.  I found Reid's performance melodramatic and although Mbatha-Raw was very talented, she definitely studies under the school of Kiera historical acting.  Oh and did I mention that the baddy in the film was played by Malfoy?  I kept waiting for him to spit 'Potter!' at Dido.  Lord Malfoy's brother was also the spitting image of Batoni's portrait of the Duke of Devonshire.

Belle was a lovely film in which you could easily lose yourself however it left me wanting more in terms of the writing.  What did everyone else thing?

For those who have already seen it you may be interested in this article, What Happened to Dido After the Film Ended?

5 comments:

  1. See also: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dido_Elizabeth_Belle

    Belle's husband was in fact not a lawyer = a gent but a gentleman's steward = upper working class. She had 3 children and her last descendant died in S Africa in 1975.

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  2. @heather regarding your first line, I would like to add "what is Belle?!?" so no, you are in fact not the last person to see this film.

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  3. P'raps Malfoy waved his walking stick in a wizardly manner?

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