Jessie Raymond: A truly rare experience at a movie

Last weekend, I went to the movies.
This may not sound like a big deal, but I haven’t seen a movie in a theater since summer 2011, when I watched “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2” in 3-D.
I had to Google the release date, but I’ll never forget the movie because it’s when I discovered that 3-D glasses give me the feeling that someone is driving a 16-penny spike into my forehead, and because, not being a huge Harry Potter aficionado, I didn’t figure out what a “horcrux” was until the climax of the movie. (In retrospect, it all would have made more sense if I’d known earlier.)
So what, you might ask, would get me to a theater for the first time in six years? It would have to be something truly compelling to make me leave home; farmers pull calves with less effort than it takes my husband to get me out of the house, even after roping my legs and dragging me with a winch. What movie could possibly do the trick?
It was “Beauty and the Beast.”
Why not? I loved the animated version that was around when the kids were little. I like musicals. I like comedy. I like romance. I like happy endings. I like talking furniture. And I especially like escapism.
Go on and rave about how wonderful “12 Years a Slave” was, but I ask you: Were there any Busby Berkeley-style dance numbers in it? I’m guessing not, but then I didn’t see it; I took a pass after reading a review that praised it for being “unflinchingly brutal.” Call me a sissy, but I don’t consider that a selling point.
Still, “Beauty and the Beast” touched me deeply. Love between father and daughter, loss of a loved one, unrequited love, raw vulnerability, the special love between a candelabrum and a feather duster — who among us can’t empathize? I mean, no, the movie wasn’t unflinchingly brutal, in the sense that no one got flogged half to death, but the knick-knacks did face some dicey moments when the castle got stormed.
The poignancy of the plot, interspersed with dazzling musical numbers, comic moments and action scenes, had me alternating between crying and laughing so often that tears streamed down my face for most of the movie. If you were in the theater for the Sunday matinee, you might have heard me, about halfway back on the left side, sniffling and wailing softly while dabbing at my cheeks with a piece of popcorn.
By the climax of the movie, my emotions got the best of me. At the critical do-or-die moment, I found myself gnawing on my seat upholstery to avoid bursting out in sobs. I don’t know if it was the surround sound, the large screen, the swirl of emotions, or the brilliant, dynamic, choreographed action of the movie itself, but I haven’t been moved like that since — well, probably since Harry Potter came back to life and I suddenly understood what a horcrux was (if you look closely, you can still see my six-year-old teeth marks on the armrest at the end of the fourth row).
I’m no movie critic, so if you’re hoping for an analysis of “Beauty and the Beast” — the music, the CGI, how it compares to the 1991 version, whether the wardrobe was overacting — you won’t find it from me. I was too drawn in by the exquisite scenery, the pace and the classic “beast meets girl, beast loses girl,” etc., story line to give it a critical eye.
In fact, I have only one complaint: I liked the beast better than the prince. Sure, he was a little rough around the edges, what with the fur and horns and bad table manners and all, but I still found him more mysterious and attractive than the milquetoast tween heartthrob he eventually — spoiler alert — turned into. That probably says more about my taste in men than about the movie itself, but if you’ve met my husband, it shouldn’t come as a surprise.
A week later, I’m still feeling exhilarated by “Beauty and the Beast,” but I’m in no rush to go to the movies again. It might be another six years or so before a film grabs my attention like this one.
That’s a good thing. I’m going to need that much time to emotionally prepare for the experience.

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