3 Stars – Challenging
Fairytales portray truths that need to be retold to each successive generation. But as cultures change, these tales also need to be recast in order to keep the lessons effective. This is what Alex Flinn did to the 1740 fairy tale “Beauty and the Beast”. Calling his modern version “Beastly,” Flinn’s story was put on film by Daniel Barnz who both directed and wrote the adapted screenplay.
The handsome prince in this modern tale is a high school student named Kyle (Alex Pettyfer). Kyle is the son of a local news anchor and attends a prestigious high school where he rules the students with arrogant superiority. It is here that he comes under the vengeful spell of Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen), a fellow student who practices witchcraft. Stripping him of his good looks, she turns him into a hideous beast who must receive a woman’s love within one year or remain a beast forever.
The retelling of this ancient story creatively weaves in the various elements of the original fairytale even down to the inclusion of a special rose. But what is different in this story is the inclusion of family dynamics and the effect that both mother-absence and father-brokenness has on a developing teen.
These effects are seen in both Beauty and the Beast. Beauty’s name is Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens). Lindy is the daughter of a poor former teacher and attends their expensive private high school on a work-study scholarship. Sharing Kyle’s problems with his parents, as his father has no time for him and his mother left when he was five years old, Lindy struggles with her father’s addiction which began when his wife (Lindy’s mother) died. This lack of parental guidance causes both Lindy and Kyle to be thrown into the world and into each other’s lives unprepared.
However, this inclusion of modern family dynamics into the story does not change the moral of the tale. Beauty sees beneath the beastly exterior of Kyle’s deformity, while Kyle realizes that love is not about the exterior beauty of another person but about valuing and caring about them in unselfish ways. That is a message that still rings true today just as it did almost 300 years ago.
Discussion for those who have seen this film:
1. Kendra describes herself as a witch. Although witches who cast spells have been a part of many fairytales, do you believe this modern tale is somehow more spiritually dangerous? Why do you answer as you do?
2. The caricature of Kyle’s father as an arrogant man who thinks looks are everything is not very realistic. How do you think the film could have been improved if he had not been presented as so shallow or do you think his superficial character was necessary for the tale to make its point?
3. The self-sacrificing act of love at the end of the film when Kyle was willing to remain “beastly” as he let Lindy go was the act that gained her love in return. How have you found self-sacrifice to be a part of the love you experience and express in your life?
4. In order for everyone to live “happily ever after” the film gives power to heal the blind to a witch. Who do you believe has power to heal?