Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Belle (2022)


Streaming Service: Amazon Prime ($3.99)
Movie Name/Year: Belle (2022)
Genre: Animation, Adventure, Drama
Length: 2h 1min
Rating: PG
Production/Distribution: Studio Chizu, BookWalker, Dentsu, Hakuhodo DY Media Partners, Kadokawa, Nippon Television Network, Toho Company, Yomiuri Telecasting Corporation, Toho, Golden Village Pictures, Purple Plan, GKIDS, Koch Films, BfParis, Wild Bunch Distribution
Director: Mamoru Hosoda
Writer: Mamoru Hosoda
Actors: Kaho Nakamura, Kenjirô Tsuda, Kôji Yakusho, Mami Koyama, Mamoru Miyano, Michiko Shimizu, Rina Izuta, Ryô Narita, Shôta Sometani, Tina Tamashiro, Toshiyuki Morikawa, Ikura, Ryôko Moriyama, Fuyumi Sakamoto, Yoshimi Iwasaki, Sachiyo Nakao, Sumi Shimamoto, Ken Ishiguro, Ermhoi, Hana, Takeru Satoh, Taichi Masu, Asami Miura, John Eric Bentley, Tom Bromhead, Tiana Camacho, Paul Castro Jr., David Chen, SungWon Cho, Courtney Chu, Victoria Dean, Jessica DiCicco, Brandon Engman, Larissa Gallagher, Jessica Gee-George, Heather Gonzalez, Barbara Goodson, Bentley Griffin, Martha Harms, Xanthe Huynh, Andrew Kishino, Anjali Kunapaneni, Wendee Lee, Ben Lepley, Lilypichu, Kyle McCarley, Noelle McGrath, Kylie McNeill, Julie Nathanson, Aaron Phillips, Zeno Robinson, Stephanie Sheh, Michael Sinterniklaas, Rachel Slotky, Laura Megan Stahl, Ellyn Stern, Frank Todaro, Cristina Valenzuela, Kiff VandenHeuvel, Aoi Yûki
IMDb Blurb: Suzu is a shy high school student living in a rural village. For years, she has only been a shadow of herself. But when she enters "U", a massive virtual world, she escapes into her online persona as Belle, a globally-beloved singer.

Cat’s Point of View:
I have been chomping at the bit to watch Belle since it came to my attention in preparation for the Top 20 Movies to Look Out For in January 2022 article. I was so excited for Belle’s release that I listed it as my #4 pick.
Now that I’ve watched Belle (multiple times, at that) I sincerely wish that I’d listed it higher (especially since a certain Marvel movie I’d listed as #1 didn’t even release as planned that month).
At some point this month, Belle became available for rental On-Demand at a price that fit my budget. My daughter had also wanted to watch Belle and so the moment we saw it available, we knew it had to be watched ASAP. As I write this review, I’m actually viewing Belle again (in the background) for the 3rd time. My daughter has already watched it 3 times, herself – one instance while I was out running errands. I digress…

Why so many times? It deserves it and we are eking out every moment we’re able to out of the rental period for Belle. I’d say it’s safe to call Belle one of my new favorite movies of all time.
What’s the big deal, you might wonder? Belle was gorgeous and profound. The music was sensational, the imagery spectacular, the story layered and nuanced, and the performances were emotional. I resonated with the narrative on so many levels. The first watch-through nearly involved ugly crying. Admittedly, I can be a sap at times, but the themes echoed some of my life experiences to a degree. Music helped me find my ‘voice’ and break out of my shell when I was younger and the digital universe helped me connect with some of the most important people in my life.

In my Top 20 article, I compared Belle to a mash-up of the universe style of Ready Player One (2018), some similar tech to Sword Art Online (2012-), and the classic fairytale of Beauty and the Beast. On the surface, the story tackles coming-of-age in this increasingly digital age with social media and the like. The plot takes on bullying – particularly the cyber variety where netizens are quick to harass and cancel people from behind their mask of anonymity. The characters also had to navigate the craziness of High School. I thought it was a brilliant touch that the story used a game something like Risk as imagery of how kids and young adults have to navigate school factions and the rumor-mill, and what an extra nightmare that sort of scenario would be for a shy, introverted person or someone struggling with anxiety.
What the trailer doesn’t make clear, however, is that Belle also takes on trauma and loss from multiple angles.

Each of these elements became woven so deftly into the story so that I cared deeply for the characters. I understood their drive. I rooted for their friendships. It celebrated the essence of Beauty and the Beast without delving into the Stockholm Syndrome story we’re all used to. It leaned, instead, on compassion and empathy as well as finding inner resolve and taking action to right wrongs rather than just paying lip service with platitudes.
I am absolutely in awe of the work Mamoru Hosoda (Samurai Champloo, Wolf Children, Mirai) accomplished as writer and director of Belle. Hosoda’s Studio Chizu was given an amazing 10th-anniversary celebration with this production. I have enjoyed his work in the past and I certainly hope that he brings more ambitious projects like Belle to the table in the future.

At the moment, Belle does not appear to be included on any specific streaming platforms; however, you can find ways to view it by clicking here for its JustWatch listing.
If you’re able to find it, I couldn’t recommend Belle enough. I can tell you with certainty that this movie will soon become part of our ‘wall-o-movies’ personal collection in my home and I will be looking to purchase the soundtrack as well. I can’t get these songs out of my head.

Rotten Tomatoes Critic Score – 95%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience Score – 95%
Metascore – 83%
Metacritic User Score – 7.7/10
IMDB Score – 7.2/10
Trust the Dice: Cat’s Rating – 5/5
P.S. – Stills from scenes throughout the movie are shown during the credits.
Movie Trailer:

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