Beautiful (2021) – Movie Review

Beautiful, 2021.

Written and directed by Mamoru Hosoda.
With the voices of Kaho Nakamura, Takeru Satoh, Tina Tamashiro, Shota Sometani, Ikura, Ryo Narita, Toshiyuki Morikawa, Kenjiro Tsuda, Mami Koyama, Mamoru Miyano, Sachio Nakao, Fuyumi Sakamoto, Ryoko Moriyama, Yoshimi Iwasaki, Michiko Shimizu, Koji Yakusho , ermhoi and Ken Ishiguro.


Suzu is a shy high school girl living in a rural village. For years, she was only a shadow of herself. But when she enters “U”, a huge virtual world, she escapes into her online persona as Belle, a world-famous singer.


Beautiful is not just a well done remake or redirection of the ideas of The beauty and the Beast because revered anime writer and director Mamoru Hosoda doesn’t know what else to do. No, this animated feature goes beyond finding inspiration in the classics, choosing to borrow core concepts and pivotal moments with not only their own unique approach, but re-contextualized into entirely different narratives. that speak to totally different themes, eras and viewers. It’s a real crowd pleaser, visually mesmerizing and heart-stealing (it won the Audience Award at the Chicago Critics Film Festival) with cerebral sentimentality.

The story follows high school girl Suzu (terribly voiced by Kaho Nakamura, nailing the character’s complex duality) still mourning the mother she lost about a decade ago. “Why did my mother decide to save someone else’s life was more important than being here in mine”, a loose quote of something Suzu wonders, perpetually stuck in the abyss depression, unable to find the rhythm of his passion, singing. Ruka (voiced by Tina Tamashiro), Suzu’s opposite outspoken IT friend, lightens the mood as they observe the day-to-day activities at school of who’s falling for whom. They also each have their respective crushes, with Suzu reluctant to talk about her feelings for Shinjiro (voiced by Shôta Sometani), who offered to protect her emotionally after the tragic death of her mother saving another child from a riptide.


Suzu also decides to cope by escaping reality in the digital world of U, which uses scanning technology to create a computerized avatar of the user bearing facial likenesses while mostly transforming them into a whole new person cosmetically, accentuating more his real strengths. In Suzu’s case, this is achieved through an act of regained courage to start singing again which, coupled with the stunning beauty of her pink-haired Belle alter ego, continues to make her an instant U influencer and sensation.

Usually, such instant viral popularity would mean a filmmaker doesn’t necessarily know what they’re doing with their internet-age narrative plot, but for Mamoru Hosoda, there’s a need to pick up the plot beats that he really wants to explore. Not only is Suzu increasingly stressed from frantically juggling two separate lives (including one online where half of her 200 million followers would instead hurl unnecessarily harsh criticism at her, further heightening her anxiety because the quiet girl doesn’t know how to deal with not being liked or even praised for that matter), playing wingman in her best friend’s love life (which makes for a hilarious and awkward moment of confused signals), and struggling to rekindle a meaningful relationship with her father (voiced by Koji Yakusho), she also became intrigued by a mysterious humanoid battle dragon known as Beast (an outstanding voice-over performance full of angst and Hidden Sensibility by Takeru Satoh).


It’s no surprise that Belle is curious to see if he can tame the Beast, so to speak, finding empathy even when he disrupts one of his mega-popular gigs by launching into a reversal with a set of vigilante guards determined to use a hand prop. laser firing device to reveal his true identity. Ignoring the fact that if U existed in real life, he’d likely be filled with jerks spoiling everyone’s fun, it’s a rare occurrence, and the Gaston-like enforcer is determined to slay the beast digitally. Given the roots of the story, it’s also not a spoiler to say that Belle and Beast begin to fall in love with each other (there’s both a castle and a recreation of the scene ballroom dance which is among the most gorgeous scenes of 2021), which could either work or be a problematic disaster given that no one knows who the other person is in the real world. Such dynamics also provide insight into the anonymity behind the digital creation of friends, both positively and negatively.

To tell more about Beautiful would be a criminal disservice to moviegoers, as the final hour or so of the feature is more or less an extended climax daring to delicately tackle a heavy topic. In between are more wonderfully animated tunes courtesy of Yûta Bandoh, Ludvig Forssell, and Taisei Iwasaki that highlight the importance of connecting through emotions and feelings, whether online or in the real world. . However, it’s also a film that understands how difficult it can be to trust someone on the internet, especially in extremely dire circumstances. There’s a discussion to be had about how the ending resolves or doxxing is actually used as a force for good at one point, but the spectacle and drama that erupts and pays off throughout the second hour is monumentally moving and gripping. Beautiful is the new gold standard for both The beauty and the Beast remakes, social commentary on the internet, and maybe even animation as an art form. It’s unforgettable.

Scintillating Myth Rating – Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the editor of Flickering Myth Reviews. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at [email protected]

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