Belle--Directed by Amma Asante/written by Misan Sagay/ starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Tom Wilkinson/rated:PG/ running time:103 minutes
Bifocal Reviews by Ageless1der Barbara Rich & The Other Guy
(BR): This is the kind of movie that I usually enjoy, a Downton Abby feel. In fact, the character of Aunt Mary, was played by one of Downton’s own. However, this one left the impression of being too long, because there were points where it just seemed to drag. I found no fault with the performances. Costumes, scenery, and set direction all worked well, immersing me into the period piece. Honestly, I’m still trying to put my finger on what bothered me. This was based on a true story that was interesting, but I always felt the need to push it along while I was watching it. The problem might have been influenced by the fact that I was freezing, as the air-conditioning was on overdrive and I was sleeveless. I have enjoyed Gugu in other performances and hoped she would get this kind of well-deserved vehicle to showcase her talents. I don’t want my personal opinions about this true story to influence my view about the value of entertainment and human interest, in Belle, so I give this film three out of five binoculars.
(OG): Whenever I see a movie, or read a book that highlights the manufactured pomp and puffery which has too often been favored by segments of humanity, it always leaves me feeling slightly embarrassed to be part of the species. I’ve never shared Barbara’s interest in the Upstairs-Downstairs stories that seem to proliferate from Britain; after all, they still hold tightly to their monarchy, albeit largely symbolic. I grow weary whenever I hear a “the rule of law” as the justification for intolerance or prejudice. I can’t help thinking, “How would we react if baboons or other apes started acting superior because they wore wigs, or hats or had somehow distinguished themselves from other baboons as a ‘rule of law?’” However, this film also had the added historical perspective of how these same Brits were able to disable the slave trade (another unfortunate human circumstance that still exists today) a hundred years before we were able to accomplish it in the U.S. Belle also features the true story of people who could easily look past the color of someone’s skin, even in an atmosphere of tolerated ignorance. Also, the acting and the sets and cinematography in Belle are excellent. I too thought the script was a bit slow and plodding, but in the end, I’m glad I saw this film and give it three binoculars as well, and I’m not even wearing a funny hat or a wig when I write this.