It's terribly rainy and overcast here, but I had some fun this afternoon meeting Kaye and Liz for lunch at Baja Burrito and then a showing of Beastly, based of course on the Alex Flinn novel. The movie is very, very loosely based on the book - but I'm not so attached to the novel that I really minded the changes.
Kyle (Alex Pettyfer) is still a spoiled, selfish teenager attending an exclusive New York City high school where anyone who doesn't meet his idea of attractive is a candidate for ridicule. Of course, Kyle's not entirely to blame for his worldview, he comes by it naturally since his father (Rob Krause), a successful news anchor, did a heckuva good job 1) instilling the idea in his son that only beautiful people get anywhere in life and 2) mostly ignoring him. When Kyle decides to make an example of Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen), an eccentric goth dresser with a reputation as a witch, by asking her on a date and then publicly humiliating her, he didn't expect his life to be forever changed by his thoughtless cruelty. Kendra transforms him into the type of person he'd always mocked - a tatooed freak, with one year to find someone to love him and reverse the spell.
If you've read the book, you can recognize a major change from the novel to the film just by looking at the poster - in the book, Kyle is a literal beast, covered in hair with fangs and claws. From the glimpses of the tatooed Kyle in the preview, I thought there was no way even I could suspend disbelief for a tatooed "beast," since obviously the filmmakers went this route rather than covering Pettyfer's good looks with elaborate costumes. Having seen the movie, I've got to say I was actually really impressed with the "beastly" make-up job - Kyle's not "just" bizarrely inked, he's covered with raw, jagged scars and raised welts. So the tatooing curse worked out better than I'd initially imagined. :)
In the novel, Kyle and Lindy (Vanessa Hudgens) meet when he gives her the rose corsage his girlfriend rejects because it is too cheap. I really liked how the film expanded on their "meet cute" moment. But first of all I've got to comment on another change - it's a bit disappointing that Hudgens looks nothing whatsoever like Lindy is described in the book. When I did a Google image search for the movie poster, I discovered several fanmade posters featuring actress Emma Stone as Lindy - looks-wise she would've been a much better choice. However, I feel like Hudgens did an excellent job capturing Lindy's personality, a combination of sweetness and spunk, and she just comes across a genuinely nice person, which I liked.
Back to the meet-cute - after giving Lindy the corsage, she asks if they can have their picture taken together. She obviously likes him (hello...girlfriend, I get it, Pettyfer is adorable) on some level in spite of his predisposition toward rudeness, and is thrilled to get a picture. What I loved about the moment was that instead of macking for the camera, Kyle's looking at Lindy, curious and intrigued by a girl who doesn't immediately fall all over herself just because he's deigning to speak with her. I just thought it was really sweet and well-played (and yes, in case you didn't realize it, I'm a hopeless romantic, I know).
When Pettyfer is playing Kyle in jerk-mode, I thought his acting was a little wooden (even for a teenage fantasy film). But he really loosened up once he's in "beast" mode and revealed a comic side that resulted in some really funny scenes. I loved his stress over trying to impress Lindy with expensive gifts, and his glee when success comes and they start to make progress in their relationship. And I seriously loved that the script had Kyle write Lindy pages and pages of letters confessing his feelings - something about writing a letter to share one's feelings is so romantic. While this movie is definitely less based on Flinn's book and more loosely inspired by, I like many of these changes, including the fact that the film raises Kyle and Lindy's ages, and still keeps their budding romance really sweet which is often not the norm in movies.
Now a few words about the supporting cast. Surprisingly, Mary-Kate Olsen made an awesome Kendra. She was pitch-perfect - a bit other-worldly and over-the-top. It's a far, far cry from her days as a TV child star, LOL. And her costumes - they reminded me of something from a goth-tinged Alice in Wonderland. I was also glad that the film doesn't have Kendra playing the double role of witch and housekeeper - instead housekeeper role of Magda in the book is changed to Zola (Lisa Gay Hamilton). Zola's patience with Kyle is even more impressive since she didn't have the whole double-magic life thing to fall back on. :) It was also a nice touch that that the script has Kendra's next project as reforming Kyle's father - that would be something to see. Neil Patrick Harris was perfectly cast as Kyle's blind tutor, Will. I loved his snarkiness - the only thing that the movie lacked was more of his scenes.
One thing I will give the book, and that is that Flinn really incorporated many of the story beats found in the traditional fairy tale, like the Beast having a rose garden prior to meeting his Beauty, or actually being in danger of dying (instead of simply remaining in beast form for all time). But other elements, like keeping Beauty a prisoner, has something of a creep factor when translated to modern times (though all things considered, I think the book manages that aspect fairly well if you suspend disbelief). The conclusion of this movie's version of the Beauty and the Beast story removes the peril factor, but in thinking it over I think that was a smart choice and focuses the attention squarely on Kyle's inner transformation.
When Lindy gets the news that her junkie father OD'd, and in her hurry to leave drops the "you're a great friend" kiss of death on Kyle, he loses all hope that she could view him as anything more than a friend. She stays away not because she's forced to, as she is in the book, but because she's hurt that he won't return her calls and talk about his declaration in the letter. When Kyle finally comes to his senses, he goes searching for Lindy at his old school. I thought that step - actually revealing his scarred self to all his former classmates - was a really great way of showing how far he'd come. No, there's no threat of imminent death, but out of love for Lindy, Kyle is willing to reveal his scarred form to the people who once lorded over, all to keep her friendship. And in the world of the movie, having Kyle no longer care how he appears to the world speaks volumes.
Beastly in book and movie form are two different, but equally enjoyable animals (no pun intended, LOL). Pettyfer is very easy on the eyes, and being a Brit I shall follow his career with interest. :) This is a pretty clean film, that save for some swearing could've easily been PG, I think. I'm a sucker for retold fairy tales in all forms, and Beastly didn't disappoint - it's a sweet, modern-day take on one of my favorite stories. To anyone else who's read the book and/or seen the film, I'd love to hear your thoughts!