Belle is another installment in the Mamoru Hosoda fantasy universe. It follows a Beauty and the Beast-esque storyline as the main character, Suzu, transforms into her digital avatar, Belle. This movie reportedly received a 14 minute long standing ovation at the Cannes, which makes me question the type of people that go to that film festival. Belle ham-fists so many different ideas and plot elements into its 2h duration and ultimately has nothing of meaning to say about any of them. Spoilers ahead!
This movie is seriously gorgeous. The colour palette is vibrant and the shots are sometimes jaw-droppingly stunning. The movement of the characters in CGI still is janky, but not distractingly so because it fits into the digital world that Belle presents.
The music was also really enjoyable and pretty. The main character has a beautiful voice and the emotional beats of the movie rely heavily on how good the soundtrack is. Despite my dislike for the story, the emotional climax did leave a lump in my throat and truly reminded me of the power of music.
As mentioned, this movie has so much to say that it says nothing at all. Belle takes on an absurd amount of different plot points at an incredibly shallow level, so much so that it becomes incredibly difficult to understand what it is actually about.
Is it about the main character dealing with the unresolved grief of losing her mother? For someone who suffers physical reactions as a result of her trauma, Suzu seems to get over it extraordinarily quickly as soon as she becomes Belle. At first, I thought they’d show her struggling to do so in real life while being confident in singing as Belle (as she escapes her reality online) but they immediately show her humming and creating music in real life as well. Apparently, crippling grief was that easy to get over.
Is it about the horrors of online bullying that come about due to anonymity? The film seems to suggest that revealing the true/real you makes people reflect on the fact that a human being is behind the avatar. A quick glance at any Youtuber’s comment section will tell you that this is completely not the case. Also, these comments make absolutely no difference in the lives of any of the characters and are just annoying in the film. Suzu freaks out about bad comments for a grand total of 5 seconds.
Is it talking about the serious danger of doxxing? Nope, the movie ends off even before the consequences of Suzu being doxxed can be properly felt in her real life. It’s almost as if the virtual world doesn’t impact reality at all. Is it about self-righteous online vigilantism? Again, the online Justice League faces no consequences, and in fact Belle benefits from being revealed online, lol.
Is it about helping abuse victims out of their situation? Let me tell you, when Suzu stands up to the abusive father and he cowers, I laughed out loud. Standing up to these physically abusive people solves the problem! Oh, if only it was so simple. In reality, these kids would be going home to a potentially worse, violent situation after that. What is particularly egregious is that the kid who is the Beast lays out the truth IN THE MOVIE not 5 minutes before that. It’s easy to say you’ll help and stick superficial plasters like Suzu did, but ultimately it will solve nothing. What exactly did she achieve?
Is it about young romance and dealing with the excitement of first love? The romantic relationships are merely teased. None of them are compelling in the slightest and I’d go as far as calling them entirely irrelevant to the movie.
This movie would have benefitted greatly from streamlining the plot elements and focusing on just how the Beauty and the Beast elements help both parties heal from past trauma. The parallel between Suzu and her mother was not really well done IMO.
Moreover, the plot moves forward in extremely contrived ways, especially towards the end. To put it bluntly, my BS detector was going off at many, many points while watching this film. Belle’s friend has got to be the greatest manager/events planner/stalker of all time. Characters randomly know and remember things for absolutely no reason. The last 30 minutes are mind-bogglingly stupid. The fact that the Justice League of the movie are unable to find the Beast’s castle is beyond unbelievable.
Another minor complaint of mine is that Belle & the Beast’s relationship is clearly depicted as a romantic one until it isn’t. I would have soooo much prefered her relationship with the beast as being a platonic one from the get go. She has her real life crush and an online crush I guess, go off sis.
I was never the biggest fan of Mamoru Hosoda, but this film really lost the plot. Honestly, this should have been a series of music videos instead (with a lore – how cool would that have been?).