Liberty Hall in Lawrence, KS is a wonderful theater that features two screens and art-house and independent films. Of course I had to take advantage of the old projector in the cafe/concession area!
Belle is a one of those gems. A film directed by a woman, Amma Asante from a screenplay written by a woman, Misan Sagay and starring a predominately-female cast telling the true story of a woman of mixed race trying to find her place in English society. A gorgeous period drama with a rich story of young women trapped by conventions and race and forced to marry to escape a life as a spinster with a ring of keys — keys that mark her as a caretaker of a great house but not the mistress of her own life.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw is a vivid young actress and as the lead, her Dido is an intelligent sensitive woman. Her niece pales in comparison (pun intended) and Sarah Gadon plays her as a happy, but shallow playmate. I found the performance of Sam Reid initially rather timid, and I worried that he would not be a worthy partner in the crucial role as a rival for Dido’s hand and heart. He does warm as the film continues and holds his own in his scenes with Tom Wilkinson. The rest of the British cast is polished and professional with Emily Watson giving the pivotal speech that puts her husband in his place. She presents the perfect example of how even women of little social power can change the course of events.
The soundtrack is a little heavy-handed in trying to persuade the audience how to feel but the cinematography is glorious and the costumes are sublime.
Rating: 4 glasses of wine–in proper stemware, served by someone properly paid for such a task!
Bechdel rating: passes