Movie Review: Belle (2013)

Posted: March 21, 2015 in Drama, Romance
Tags: ,

belle

In 1769, Captain Sir John Lindsey  (Matthew Goode) claims her mixed race daughter, Dido Elizabeth Belle Lindsey (Lauren Julien-Box, Gugu  Mbatha Raw) and brings her back to the family estate to live with her great uncle, Lord Mansfield, (Tom Wilkinson) Chief Justice of the British Supreme Court.  Belle’s father dies and leaves her a sizable fortune, but she still cannot eat dinner with guests. A young man, John Davinier,(Sam Reid) wants to study the law under the tutelage of Lord Mansfield.  Belle and John quarrel at first, but they seem to be attracted to each other.  John is doing research on the Zong case, a fraudulent insurance case involving a slave ship, which could deal a crippling blow to slavery in England.  Belle helps John find some key papers in the case, but how does Lord Mansfield rule in the case?  Do Belle and John act on their feelings for each other?

Belle is based on a true story, but a true story doesn’t mean it’s a compelling story.  This movie tries to be part Jane Austen type movie about cotillions, and debutantes, and the social niceties of that period, and part Amistad, a movie about a slave ship case.  Add to that the story of a mixed race girl growing up in a mostly white environment.  The trouble is, it’s not enough of Jane Austen, or enough of Amistad.  There are no sparks in the romance, and the slave case seems like an afterthought.  The ending is predictable and didn’t help my opinion of the film.

The acting is not bad.  Gugu Mbatha Raw, tries hard to portray the conflicted nature of being a mixed race woman in the late 1700’s, but the romance which should be a key part of the story falls flat.  There is no chemistry with Sam Reid, no sparks, nothing.  They hug at the end of the movie.  Hug?  Come on.  They are supposed to be in love with each other. Tom Wilkinson tries to class up the picture, but he plays Lord Mansfield as a cantankerous old cuss, who never really warms up to Belle or anyone else.

The pacing is slow and ponderous the movie is long, there are no breathtaking visuals, no great direction.

Belle:  Doesn’t ring true.

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