Beastly (2011) – A Hidden Beauty

Directed by Daniel Barnz, Beastly is a Fantasy film, based on the novel (also named Beastly) by Alex Flinn

This is yet another film adaptation that I haven’t read the book for but that didn’t stop me enjoying this romantic story.

Beastly (film)

Image via Wikipedi

So, everyone knows the Beauty and the Beast story and this film doesn’t hide this fact, but not everyone has seen it done in this way. In this version, the main character, Kyle is cursed by a witch with `ugliness’ in order to teach him a lesson about vanity. She tells him to find someone to love him in a year’s time or else stay disfigured forever, leaving him alone and adrift in a world where he has to face his true self.

It also boasts an interesting cast – Alex Pettyfer (Stormbreaker), Vanessa Hudgens (High School Musical), Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother), Peter Krause (Six Feet Under) and even Mary-Kate Olsen appearing as the witch.

The start of Beastly is a little slow, but I was pleasantly surprised as the film unfolded. As I always find in `Beauty and the Beast’ adaptations/new spins, the lead male is infinitely more interesting as the tormented beast than as the rich, vain Prince. In this version he is not a prince, of course, but the modern-day equivalent, the attractive, popular son of a wealthy news anchor.

From the beginning we see that his relationship with his father is fraught and distant, yet we see or learn little of the `Beauty’ (Vanessa Hudgens), even though the door is opened early on for the rest of the story to unfold. This is saved for later in the film, a tactic that works well for it helps us to understand the Beast’s interest in her and we get to see her at first through the eyes of someone else, something that always adds to the chemistry.

Alex Pettyfer in prosthetics as the beast. The...

Image via Wikipedia

The story unfolds at a natural pace. We see the outcome of the spell and follow Kyle’s descent into solitude, checking his Facebook page to see the rumours people are posting about his disappearance. His father becomes even more distant , unable to deal with his son’s new-found `ugliness’ and eventually leaves Kyle in a private apartment with only a maid who is separated from her children (Lisa Gay Hamilton) and a blind tutor (Neil Patrick Harris) for company.

This echoes the older versions of the tale where the Prince’s household servants were also cursed by the witch. In this one, the situation with Kyle leads them to be stuck there with him and so, in a way, cursed.

The rest of the film is concerned with Kyle’s attempts to overturn the curse but also to learn what it means to care for other people more than himself. we learn more of our `Belle’ (named Lindy) and her personal struggles to look after her addict father, we can well understand why she is a special character. When she comes to live with Kyle (who then tells everyone to call him Hunter) we get to see the story really come alive.

The depth and pace at which the romance blooms in this film is done exceptionally well. Although we know the plot, there are new things added and it is a very good modernization of the tale. The only drawback is that the reasons for her coming to live with Kyle seem a bit disjointed and that is the one part of the film I felt could be improved.

Fine white rose in vase

Image via Wikipedia

Yet there’s a lot of fun in this story. Kyle’s attempts to impress Lindy are amusing and fans of the Disney version, will spot a few sneaky parallels in there from that version. Kyle/Hunter becomes far more likable in his struggles and learns that the arrogant person he was before wasn’t even as well-liked as he had believed. I won’t give away the ending but I will say this: It is all wrapped up wonderfully. Loose ends are tied up, everything introduced has its purpose. There is an alternative ending that I would like to have seen but I still enjoyed this one.

The plot in this is fairly solid, as adaptations usually are, but where many adaptations can fall flat in their attempts just to copy a well-known fairytale, Daniel Barnz makes this his own film.

Neil Patrick Harris is funny as the blind tutor `Will’ and the chemistry between the cast is very good. I can’t help thinking that the right actors were chosen for this film.

Girls and romantics will love it. People who scoff at chick-flicks will hate it, but for me, there was a lot of depth in this tale. There’s a reason why certain fairytale plots are effective and this film takes everything we love about the original and adds its own spin to it.

I was surprised by the negative reviews of Beastly. Just like with the fairytale you have to look below the surface of this film to find something special. It’s a great film and I watched it twice before sending it back to Lovefilm and would recommend it for lovers of the original, `Beauty and the Beast’.

A much better film than I thought it would be and one I would definitely watch again.


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