Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Review of Beastly

When an audience applauds at the end of a movie, you can be assured the story touched their hearts. That's what happened last Saturday when the curtain rang down on Beastly. I went to see the move with a group of teens and teen writers and found the experience uplifting.

The movie is based on the book of the same name by author Alexandra Flinn. Flinn took the familiar Beauty-and-the-Beast Story and brought it up to date, setting it in modern-day New York City. The story moves from Manhattan to Brooklyn, with one sequence outside the city at a lakeside estate. An enjoyable advantage of movie versus book is the dazzling visuals of New York City at night and the bridges lit up like strings of diamonds.

Flinn's main characters are high school students Kyle and Lindy. And to assure us that this is truly a fairy tale, there's a real witch who sets the plot in motion. Kyle (played by Alex Pettyfer) has been taught by his mostly-absent father that looks count for everything. He is a vain boy who offends the witch, played by Mary-Kate Olsen--gothly strange looking.

The witch curses Kyle to be ugly until someone loves him for himself. The trouble is, Kyle is not lovable. That is, until he, now calling himself Hunter, rescues Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens) from harm and brings her to live with him in the house his father has stuck him in in Brooklyn. Gradually, Lindy brings out the lovable Kyle inside the Beast he appears to be. The two teens share the house with Kyle's long-time housekeeper (Lisa Gay Hamilton) and blind tutor (Neal Patrick Harris).

The essence of the story deals with appearance and seeing. What does it take to "see" a person as he/she really is? The theme is reinforced by symbols and images. The name Kyle indicates narrow-mindedness; one sidedness, and the name Lindy represents sweetness and prettiness. The tutor, being blind, sees a different side of Kyle, and the housekeeper has always seen Kyle's inner beauty. Kyle's father is totally blind to his son. Kyle/Hunter roams the city at night, hiding inside a hoodie, ashamed of his appearance, trying not to be seen at all.

And what would Beauty and the Beast be without roses? As Kyle begins to realize looks are not everything, his heart opens to the plight and needs of others. He knows Lindy loves roses, so he builds her a greenhouse on the roof and fills it with roses. There's comic relief in Kyle's construction mishaps.

The witch's curse includes a rose bush tattoo on Kyle's arm that changes with the seasons. This symbolizes another aspect of the story, transformation. By the time the rose bush fills out with roses in the Spring, Kyle must have become lovable, OR ELSE remain ugly forever.

All this might give the appearance of a fairy tale. But perhaps it is the truth of the story that grips the audience and elicits emotions. What do you think? Do we put too much emphasis on looks and expensive clothes and not enough on actions and motives? Would you go out of your way to be nice to someone you consider ugly? Have you ever overlooked someone's ugliness and made friends with that person? Have you ever ridiculed someone for his appearanc? Is transformation possible? Let us know what you think.

I think you would applaud the movie, Beastly, but for a slightly different experience, check out the book by Alexandra Flinn.

6 comments:

jolenejolenejolene said...

"Have you ever overlooked someone's ugliness and made friends with that person?"

That is such a bizarre question.....are people really that superficial? Or do I have my head perpetually in the clouds? Do people really SEE UGLY? If that's the case.....I need to set an intention....right now.....and inspire the human race to change that crap! Now.....please bring on advancement, awareness, acceptance, optimism, change and evolution....quickly. For those that have experienced this...I feel for you....and suggest aligning yourself with people who never see ugly. They exist and are actually out there...living, breathing, and loving...but it begins with each and every one of us. xo

Sara Thompson said...

What do you think? Do we put too much emphasis on looks and expensive clothes and not enough on actions and motives?
As a society, I think we put way too much emphasis on looks, etc. Just look at reality tv and how we view celebrities. It's quite sad. I just hope our children know better.

BarbaraB said...

Joylene and Sara,

I don't think the movie, Beastly, exaggerates the problem. It seems to me that a large segment of our society teaches children to value external qualities.
You and I and other authors, especially those of us who write for children, can be the change we would like to see happen. It's a responsibility not to be taken lightly.

jolenejolenejolene said...

I'm not sure if you've seen this....but the timing seemed right. It's one of my favorites. Enjoy.

The Invitation
~ Orin Mountain Dreamer
It doesn't interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing. It doesn't interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love for your dream for the adventure of being alive.
It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon...
I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow if you have been opened by life's betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain.
I want to know if you can sit with pain mine or your own without moving to hide it or fade it or fix it.
I want to know if you can be with joy mine or your own if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful to be realistic to remember the limitations of being human.
It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me is true.
I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.
*I want to know if you can see beauty even when it is not pretty every day.*
And if you can source your own life from its presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure yours and mine and still stand at the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, "Yes!"
It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up after a night of grief and despair weary and bruised to the bone and do what needs to be done to feed the children.
It doesn't interest me who you know or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand in the centre of the fire with me and not shrink back.
It doesn't interest me where or what or with whom you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you from the inside when all else falls away.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.

~ Oriah Mountain Dreamer

jolenejolenejolene said...

Shane Koyczan is the Spoken Word poet who 'spoke to the world' at the Olympic opening ceremonies in Vancouver. Take a moment and listen to some of his stuff...I hope you like it. Enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_kMkpDfjnJU

~N

BarbaraB said...

Jolene,
That is so incredibly beautiful, I wish everyone on the Muse could hear Shane Koyczan speaking his fascinating poetry. I feel the music behind added to the emotional impact.