Hi, my name is Stephanie and I’m an opinionated music and movie fan.
When I was a little girl, my favorite movie was Beauty and the Beast, with Hunchback of Notre Dame being a close second. Since no one talks about that movie, we’ll just focus on the first one.
Recently, as I’m sure most all of you know, there was a Beauty and the Beast live action remake. It had a lot of buzz around it, with huge stars and beautiful sets and a beloved source material. However, for a lot of people it fell flat. And by a lot of people I mean at least me and like five other cranky fans. But I’m a recluse and know little of the mainstream. There’s probably more of us out there, I just wouldn’t know. I found a reddit thread, at least.
As an obsessed, rhetorical fanatic, of course, I’ve never let my disappointment go. I hid it from friends because I didn’t want to ruin their gleeful bubbles, but now I have to speak out. After listening to “Evermore” on repeat for about an hour, I finally feel like I have a concise conclusion to why the movie frustrates me so much. And the answer laid right under my nose.
It’s “Evermore”. Everything wrong with the movie is what’s wrong with “Evermore”.
“Evermore” still appeals to people because it is a somber ballad about love, loss, and heartbreak. It paints the effect love can have on a person but also the pain it can cause. The lyrics are honestly heartfelt and really hit you in the feels. Trust me, even cranky me gets it in a few swells of music. However, at least in my opinion, it never quite becomes emotional powerhouse that it should be. Why?
Well, part of that reason is the existence of “If I Can’t Love Her”. In the Broadway musical version of Beauty and The Beast, the songwriters included a solo number for the Beast where he laments his relationship with Belle. Ultimately, he concludes that love is his shot to turn everything around, but he couldn’t even love someone like Belle, beautiful and fascinating. With her running away, he thinks that it’s all over for him and he’ll have to accept his fate. After all, if he couldn’t love her, then who? He might as well let the world be done with him and get it over with. He would forever be a Beast. It’s a song that encompasses hope and hopelessness, the pain and beauty of love, and the anguish of loss. In that moment, Beast didn’t think he just lost Belle, he also thought he lost any chance of being himself again.
Furthermore, in a music nerd way, simply the melody itself goes all the way. In “If I Can’t Love Her”, it’s a somber song that compensates for it’s major key with vocals, slowness, and mirroring the haunting theme. “Evermore” may have sad lyrics, even torturous, but it’s played in a major key with no other measures in place, making it sound more hopeful and soft. It creates a confusing dichotomy in your head where what Beast is singing is dreadful and depressing, but the musical notes sound uplifting and hopeful. The song tries to encompass that sadness and grief while sticking to an easier song to listen to, a more “pop-y” love ballad. “If I Can’t Love Her” holds no punches and is sometimes painful to listen to, with how sad and hopeless it is. But it perfectly captures what Beast is feeling in that moment.
Even the way Beast presents himself during the song is wildly indicative of this difference. During the live-action scene, he walks up stairs, higher and higher, to watch Belle as she leave his palace. That’s an effective idea. However, he does it fairly calmly and slowly. The scene would have been more interesting if he was frantic in his motions, trying to convince himself with the song that it was okay that she was going, but his actions that of a much more desperate man. It would have smoothed over some of the brightness of the song itself. In “If I Can’t Love Her”, Beast is agonizing, tossing things, realizing that this could mean his life is over. There’s a bullshit angle of the curse where it makes love a tool for his salvation, which he seems to hate, but it’s not like he doesn’t want to love, either. It’s a terrible situation and he acts terrible because of it, but he struggles with the realization that his only chance might have slipped through his fingers. If he couldn’t love his only chance of salvation, then who?
The beast during “Evermore” simply can’t compare.
I will grant I have a complete bias towards “If I Can’t Love Her”. It was a song on my Disney Princess CD as a kid, mind you a very odd addition among sappy love or classic character songs. But its somber mood and fascinating realm of emotions captivated me. I had never seen the stage musical, but I could feel everything. It was impressive.
This is the exact same way the original and the live action are compared, too. The new one is nice, pretty, but it doesn’t hit those notes of emotion and anguish as effectively. It isn’t just “If I Can’t Love Her” that changes things. It’s also the ability to show every tiny emotion the beast feels. Animation made every movement on Beast’s face real and strong. CGI just couldn’t do the same.
“Evermore” isn’t terrible. That’s the point. The Beauty and The Beast remake isn’t terrible, either. If it didn’t have such a hard act to follow, it would be a fine enough film. But it does and it failed to add or recreate any of the magic. At best, it just ticked the nostalgia meter. The movie and the song tried too hard to be pretty, to be palatable for as many people as possible, but only watered itself down and made the film worse off for it.
And to think how much better it might have been, if only “Evermore” had been written in a minor key.