It is Friday and the movie starts at noon. I’m able to park close to the cinema door since my car is one of maybe five in the cavernous parking lot. Do I have the wrong time? Is the theater closed?
No. The door is not locked and I ride the escalator upstairs to keep the ticket seller, concessionaire, and ticket-taker company. For there are only four of us in that vast popcorn-scented multi-plex lobby emblazoned with floor to ceiling “Coming Soon!” posters. This is the second time in my life that I’ve gone to a movie alone; who knew that I would be so truly by myself? A little weird, but freeing as well.
I go to the bathroom; give the nice man my ticket; walk down the long hall, and enter the theater. It is empty. So, where to sit? On the aisle, of course, for easy bathroom access. In the middle row? Hm. A little too close to the screen, so I move back two rows. Perfect. Two women enter and, with a laugh, I bid them “Welcome to my theater!” I unzip my pocketbook and pull out the water bottle and granola bar I’d smuggled in. I feel a little daring about that small felony. Look at me, so bold today! Smuggling contraband and alone at the movies!
I love Disney, cartoons, and musicals, and Dave does not. I wanted to see “Beauty and the Beast” and Dave certainly did not. I love previews, and Dave does not…and the fantasy selections blaring and darting in bright light – geared to the “Beauty and the Beast” audience – delight me. Dave would have been sneering or snoozing over “Wonder Woman,” a sequel to “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and “Coco,” an animated film about a small boy’s journey to the land of the dead. Now that I’ve braved solo movie attendance, I plan to see them all.
The ponderous velvet curtains pull further to the side as the lights go down. “When You Wish Upon a Star” swells through the room just as it did at the opening of "The Wonderful World of Disney” when I was a kid. Onscreen, colored stars arc over the soaring towers of Cinderella’s castle and cascade in a shimmering shower of sparkles. I grin in the dark. Yippee!
Oddly, I am weepy several times during the movie, and not just when the brutish Gaston kills our – by now, beloved – Beast. What are the triggers? I’m not sure. Nostalgia? The appeal of enchantment as a solution to seemingly unsolvable problems? A yearning for happy endings? In “Beauty and the Beast,” arrogance and bullying inflict pain, harsh judgments reveal the flaws of the judges, exteriors belie interiors, and mob mind and mob violence are shown for the horrors they are. The themes in “Beauty and the Beast” are not cartoonish: they challenge us now.
Later, when I return home, Dave has to listen to me re-tell the tale because I am so uplifted, so excited, so HAPPY after seeing this movie. He says, “So, it has a plot like every other fairytale about the restorative power of women.” Whoa. I am whipped from a defensive response at the start of his comment to astonishment at new insight in his closing. “Say that again?”
“It’s a story about the restorative power of women.”
While a friend recently told me she’d read an article debating “Belle: Feminist or Brain-Washed Captive,” with my new Trump World heightened feminist sensibility, I love Dave’s expansion of the traditional take on the movie’s message. For, despite the appeal of powers beyond those human, enchantment was not the path to the movie’s happy ending. Ultimately, Beauty and the Beast is about loving despite differences. In the film as in life, kindness and love are the saving grace.