Friday, January 2, 2015

Review: Belle (2014)


    'Belle': A Biopic That Breaks Conventions In More Than One Area
           One thing that has always upsetted me about Hollywood is how while they have given meaningful roles to actors of color, they seem to have this inability to write meaningful roles for actresses of color. Thankfully, the makers of Belle have taken a real-life story about a black woman that isn't a stereotype and allowed the role to be a star-is-born performance for its lead actress.

         Belle is based on the real life story of a mixed race woman named Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) who was sent to live with her aunt and uncle by her white father who was a Royal Navy officer. The film focuses on Dido's struggles to find out where she belongs and her complicated infatuation with a lawyer who seeks to abolish slavery.

      I'll start off with the performance by Gugu Mbatha-Raw.  She gives a performance that is radiant as she gives a simple glance, yet also quietly devastating as she finds herself caught in the middle and even as she speaks, struggling to find her voice. Mbatha-Raw brings such charm and depth into her commanding lead performance and after a string of supporting roles in the past, it is nice that she finally gets to carry a movie on her own. Hopefully, she gets more lead roles in the future. She also has great support from her castmates, including Tom Wilkinson and Emily Watson as her aunt and uncle. I also loved the scenes betwen Mbatha-Raw and Sarah Gadon, who plays Belle's cousin Lady Elizabeth Murray. They have such great chemistry that when things go awry for them, you just can't help but feel aad with them.

      One thing that I thought was interesting was, and I am not sure if this actually occurred, was how even though it is a period piece biopic, the writer Misan Sagay managed to incorporate small romance film conventions. In particular, a love triangle that Belle is caught up in between the lawyer she is in love with and a Lord she is engaged to. That whole thing may have been done before, yet I was strangely interested by how it was done here.


        Overall, Belle is a rather refreshing biopic that features a radiant star turn for Gugu Mbatha-Raw. The performances by her cast mates are also spectacular and the writing manages to uniquely introduce yet break old conventions.

        Would I Recommend It?:
      Absolutely. It is an important story and it has a black performer finally not playing a stereotype. I would say because of those reasons, you should take a shot at seeing this,

Grade: B