When you enjoy any earthly comfort you want, have the attentions of a movie star with nearly everyone hanging on your every word, and the looks to go with it – and you know it, life is a walk in the park. Beastly tells such a story, although it probably won’t appeal to a much wider audience than pre-teens or older teenagers – to most all it looks like is an angst-driven story with some pretty faces and young Hollywood starlets that really have no real acting chops, but what everyone should recognize is its message about vanity… something that is only skin deep and fades with time.
The tale as old as time was re-invented in this 2010 flick (why it’s Beauty and the Beast, of course!): this go-round pits a bad-boy jerk against a girl to be reckoned with (one with magical powers too!). The scorned Kendra spins a curse on Kyle so fierce, he isn’t sure what hit him, but neither is the curse taken seriously by Kyle – he begs her to undo it, mopes about his “prison” and doesn’t care whose feelings he stomps on in getting there. Anyone within listening distance gets an earful. Partly, Kyle elicits a bit of sympathy from us and gets a pass for his disrespectful behavior because of his upbringing – his father all but abandons him forcing Kyle to realize how little he thinks of a son who isn’t one of the “beautiful people,” and his so-called friends whisper about what a terrible person he was, unaware that he is amongst them. Fortunately the one genuine redeeming light that sparkles is the relationship between Kyle and Lindy – the one girl he let his guard go unchecked around before the curse. It is sweet and innocent, while the romantic gestures Kyle makes when attempting to win her heart will make one sigh with the gushing romance of it all.
Kyle’s journey to true love is genuine believe it or not. His motivations may have begun as selfish (to undo the curse), but eventually he learns to care for someone not out of necessity but affection, and no matter what critics said, that is deeply portrayed by the actor, Alex Pettyfer. The character is conflicted, he isn’t all together. Anyone who was as conceited as he isn’t going to be the most likable person or win “person of the year,” a change has to be gradual: a transformation wouldn’t happen overnight. His very nature is made up of making fun of his peers if they weren’t wealthy like him, attractive like him or intelligent like him. Likewise, Vanessa gave a beautiful compelling performance and despite critics attempt to always pin her break-out role (High School Musical) on her, she is proving them wrong. The young cast does an excellent job of carrying the story, helping us see the original story slip through in places we might not have otherwise been expecting a lesson and all in a mere eighty-six minutes. These instances include a rose (that has nothing to do with measuring the time Kyle has left) and a reason for Lindy to live with Kyle.
I am going to confess, I didn’t expect much from this movie other than enjoyment. It was one that I couldn’t wait to see only to be unable to get a copy its first week to DVD. Disney had a classic with the Beauty and the Beast animated children’s movie. Before that there was a cult classic TV series, and following the 1991 animated flick, various stories were inspired by it, and any number of Broadway shows enjoyed successful runs. Beastly was actually in theaters for a limited run and obviously is a modern take on the storybook fable. Its main appeal might be directed towards young teens, and that is okay if the message seeps into their minds. With exception to a few missteps, this is a beautiful fairytale that has some darker undertones, giving it a more realistic bent and also perhaps a wider appeal to adults. I would have liked to see the characters be a little older in order to provide characters choices, reactions and emotions with a more mature mindset, but I think filmmakers thought setting it in a trendy teenage scene would be easier to manipulate the story to their advantage (i.e. an overly vain hero). Kyle’s change of heart feels genuine, as does Lindy’s initial distrust but eventual acceptance of him.
There is a song that has a line in it about pride deceiving our minds (it rhymes too!) and although we might not think in that vein often, isn’t that a truth we all should learn to accept and work hard to make sure we aren’t deceived by such worldly pursuits? Some people are obsessed with beauty to such a point that they’ll do anything – anything to preserve it. Kyle was in a similar place. His entire world revolved around popularity and beauty – it just wasn’t the right kind. The movie has some beautiful moments, and it offers some truthful lessons of beauty being only skin deep – if you are ugly on the inside, what you look like on the outside will not matter – beauty fades.