MMT Quick Review of ‘Belle’

Belle (banner: foxsearchlight.com)

Happy Mother’s Day MMT Family!  I wanted to give my quick opinion about a film that opened here in Philadelphia on Friday night, and one that some MMT winners advance screened last week.  The movie is the highly acclaimed Belle, directed by Amma Asante and starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw (some may know her from the now cancelled NBC drama Undercovers with Boris Kodjoe) in the lead role as Dido Elizabeth Belle.  The film also stars Tom Wilkinson, Miranda Richardson, Penelope Wilton, Matthew Goode and Emily Watson.

Inspired by a 1779 painting of the real Dido Belle, screenwriter Misan Sagay created a beautifully brave, and at times bittersweet, story with a multi-faceted display of love during one of the world’s darkest periods.  Born to a Royal Navy Admiral and an African slave, Belle is raised in England by her aristocratic great-uncle (Tom Wilkinson) and his wife (Emily Watson) side-by-side with her cousin Elizabeth. The high-ranking of her family’s stature and the dichotomy of her treatment within it, her duplicitous treatment by society, and her increasing awareness of the improbability that her race contributes to finding true love within such a society are all themes explored in the film.  In addition, Belle’s great-uncle’s pivotal decision as superior judge in a slave-trade/insurance case, and how his care of his niece may have impacted, is explored.

Now, most of you know I do not do spoilers, but this is one movie where I am finding it hard not to share!  Sagay created some of the most amazing lines and moments in this film and the exceptional talent of the cast, especially Mbatha-Raw, delivers them all to the hilt. You can click here to go to the Fox Searchlight “Belle” website and check some of the clips out yourself!

And Amma Asante’s direction was spot on.  Because it is a period piece, and I didn’t research running time prior to screening, I settled in believing it was going to be a lengthy film.  Yet surprisingly, with just enough character development and introduction, and with precise movement,the film runs at 104 minutes. And it is a visual feast; especially the beautiful period costumes.  “Belle” is a film that the audience can digest with ease and leave the theater filled with the power of love – self, romantic and agape.

Click here to see the synopsis and official trailer of Belle shared formerly in the giveaway post, and check below for the origins featurette video.  And please stop back and leave a comment or two to let me know your thoughts about the film! 😉

Until next thought family, Thomasena

13 responses to “MMT Quick Review of ‘Belle’

    • Thanks Teddy for that bit. Here’s some additional info taken from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belle_(2013_film):

      Some initial press coverage ahead of filming cited Amma Asante as the sole writer of Belle, as well as director.[15] However, press releases that followed Fox Searchlight’s acquisition of the film gave the final credit determined by the Writers Guild of America, West as “Written by Misan Sagay”.[16][17] Baz Bamigboye of The Daily Mail wrote that cast members Tom Wilkinson and Penelope Wilton had expressed ‘incredulity’ at the accreditation decision because Wilkinson and Wilton had “only seen and worked from a script written by Amma,” whose writing and direction won her the Carl Foreman award at the BAFTAs in 2005.[18][19] However the article also revealed that Asante had been hired to re-draft an original screenplay written by Misan Sagay, after Sagay left the project due to serious ill-health. The subsequent arbitration process undertaken by the Writers Guild of America determined that Sagay provided the bulk of content used in the script, so Sagay was awarded sole writing credit.

      Producer Damian Jones confirmed, “There was a WGA arbitration. The WGA made its decision on writing credits. And the production respects and abides by their decision.”[18]

      Did you enjoy the movie? Please feel free to share your thoughts! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

      • I’ve been waiting for this story for years and have not been disappointed. I’ve seen Belle twice now am likely to see it at least twice more!!!
        As a movie buff I cannot deny that cinema is changing! This feels to me as a woman of color even better than Jackie Brown and I’ve forgiven Quentin so many things for giving us that movie.
        I love your vibe and will keep coming here you express your enjoyment unabashed. Love it!!
        Costume drama’s my thing I also love Amma’s film and might be what you call a fan. I also know that the structure, character, wit, pace and dialogue of Belle’s story were all written word for word by the director.
        Misan Sagay is the writer of an earlier and very different version of this story and was able to demand and receive a sole credit at arbitration because of her contract with the producer, who is bound by the union….. hence his statement . Not a word of Sagay’s dialogue remains but this means zilch when credit is decided. You are welcome to inbox me as the amateur and unofficial documenter of “Belle”
        Teddy.

      • Well thanks for stopping by Teddy and feel free to leave comments anytime! Enjoy the discussion! This will be a story I will enjoy watching a few times myself 🙂

  1. This is now one of my new favorite movies. I try not to buy DVD’s because I had literally hundreds of VHS movies back in the day, that I couldn’t continue to store. But “Belle” will go into my exclusive home collection.

    I also was very impressed with Amma Asante. Check out my pics of the director when you get a chance.

  2. I liked the movie. Good story. I was happy and sad for Bell. Glad she stood up for what she believed. Glad she was not prejudice about marrying a titled gentleman.

  3. I loved the movie…set in the 1700’s it is rare that people of color today, get to see the same of yesterday without the shadow of slavery. In spite of the inescapable societal ills of slavery, Belle also overcame the same ills of being a woman enslaved to her husband, as was the custom. The movie draws you into a reality that many could never imagine. The writing was excellent and the elegance of the directing was simple yet powerful as the young girls passed behind the tree and emerged into womanhood. Kudos to all who brought this important story to life. It will open many eyes to the ignorance and brutality of judgement due to skin color. It also allow movie goers to feel the humanity that connects us all on a deep and emotional level, as only human’s feel.
    I not only will purchase the DVD but will be also be looking for at least a poster of the original painting to frame and hang in my home. It is a reminder of a people who handled all the outside tribulations of society with class, brilliance and dignity that we have carried with us to this day.
    It reminded me of what the artist, Cal Massey has offered with his profound and most loved work “Angel Heart”…that depicts a female African angel in all her glory. It hung in my daughters room all her life. I used it for my poetry CD cover and ultimately, I purchased unlimited rights to use from Mr. Massey. It is my greatest desire to hang a framed poster of Belle in my home with Angel Heart…to celebrate the freedom of a sisterhood and a reminder of our glorious past, present and future.

    • Beautifully stated Oni! And thanks for the “Angel Heart” and Carl Massey references! Love the fact that we can learn in the comments section! Appreciate you stopping by always! 🙂

  4. Pingback: MMT November 2015 Netflix Picks | Music Movies Thoughts·

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