Belle is one of those indie movies that makes a lot of noise early in the year, yet usually gets ignored when it comes time to award season.
Not saying this film is deserved awards or anything, that is just when it was released. A nice indie number that is indeed not about Beauty and the Beast, but instead, racism in the victorian era. Ah yes, the Victorian era, where women wore corsets and giant dresses all the time, and men wore…I guess mostly regular clothes. And wigs!
But this work of fiction, based on books, is also pseudo historically accurate. Namely the character Lord Mansfield was actually Chief Justice of England during the time of the movie and presided over several cases that are relevant to the plot. Sweet. But the rest is just guesstimated fluff. I love fluff!
Despite the picture, this is also not a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood.
Dido Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) was born in the West Indies and she is a mulatto. Her mother was a local, but her father was of the English Royal Navy (Matthew Goode) and he has decided to claim her and take her to England. Because he is at sea all the damn time, he places her in the care of his uncle, Lord Mansfield (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife (Emily Watson), even though she is BLACK and they are distinguished members of society.
But they get over it, kind of, and raise her as an aristocrat with her cousin Elizabeth (Sarah Gadon). However, she is still slightly shunned by society and not able to play all the reindeer games. Like when it comes time for suitors, she is told she cannot interact with the other gentleman as none of them would find her desirable.
Also at the same time, Lord Mansfield is ruling on a case involving a ship who threw slaves overboard out of necessity to survive, running low on supplies. They echoed it as similar to throwing cargo overboard and want to collect the insurance on their haul. His ruling on this and the events surrounding it could change Britain forever and some people think that having Dido around might influence his decision.
I guess I would conclude Belle is a good movie, just one that is pretty darn predictable. Oh sorry, I am concluding before I describe.
Yes, Belle is well acted and I felt good by the end. But a lot of the movie just felt like Victorian filler in the middle. The plot is literally finding suitors for a few ladies. Is this a Jane Austen novel in secret?
Which is my main complaint. Not that predictability is a necessarily a bad thing, but if I kind of know what to expect the entire movie and it follows the path pretty straightforwardly, what is the point? It should have a lot of stuff going on for it in the middle to really make up for that fact.
And it has a few unique events to be sure. Well acted, as I already said. Outfits are nice, message is nice. But I kind of just expected something more. The film itself was incredibly safe.