Belle and the Beast: Part 3
Okay, so things have been pretty routine so far: not a great, but not (overly) bad movie. Only light mentions of the Bible/Book of Mormon.
But now, shit is about to officially get real. Jordan Scoville territory here.
Eric has to go out to a local business dinner, and invites Belle. The asking is pretty cute: typical rom-com “I’m asking for ‘business’ reasons but it’s really because I want to date you.” Eric’s nervous smile when he asks says it all.
(Not for nothing, but this is good direction here. Not only is Eric slowly staring to think of Belle romantically, but he asks her…almost like a teenager would. And considering that Eric was widowed in his early 20s, this makes sense.)
This actor is MUCH better at playing nervous/happy than he is at playing mean/heartbroken.
It also says it all that although Eric introduces Belle as his assistant, the other two women are the wife and girfriend of each of the other businessmen. 😉
This dress, though? Not feelin’ it.
The dress: First of all, it should be gold (as an homage, don’tcha know?). It also really doesn’t show off Belle’s (excellent) figure. Then again, and to be totally fair, it does kinda look like something Belle found on clearance, so maybe I shouldn’t complain.
At the dinner, Belle is, natch, the only person with compassion at the table, suggesting that the company NOT fire most of its employees when they switch to “a new model.” Belle talks these seasoned businessmen into keeping their old employees and re-training them.
(Nothing more clearly telegraphs the Mormon-ness of this movie than this restaurant scene: despite being the fanciest joint in town, every single person at every single table is drinking water.)
After dinner, Eric takes Belle on a drive up into the snowy mountains. They trek about a hundred yards away from the car, to a snowy field where they sit on a log and chat. (Belle’s dress and shoes love that, I’m sure. Plus, damn, Eric loves being out in the snow.)
They chat about Eric getting into consulting, and Belle opines that he’s “better off” doing that than he would be running his own business (again alluding to Mrs. Higgin’s gossip), and, of course, adds that “there’s someone watching out for us.”
This prompts Eric to tell Belle the details of the night his wife died. They were out for a leisurely drive, when a tire blew and they went off the road…
“There wasn’t a single other person on that road—no one to help. For…for a highway like that, that’s pretty unusual. It…it was as if God knew exactly what he was doing, and I couldn’t do a thing to stop him. By the time I woke up, she was already gone. I prayed and I prayed, but it didn’t make a difference. So I sat, trapped, unable to move, in that car for three hours until someone even noticed.”
Stopping here because THREE HOURS.
That poor man. That poor, poor man.
We’ve seen a lot of tragedy that God has meted out over the course of the books and movies critiqued here, but there is something especially horrifying about this one, at least for me. It’s the helplessness, I think, the being alone and trapped with your tragedy and pain, with no one to talk to. And I have a sneaking suspicion that in the ten years since it happened, this may be the first time Eric has told the whole story to anyone. Though I hope that his detox and rehab featured some good old talk therapy.
Anyway, back to his story…
“But I didn’t stop praying. I figured it was the only thing I could do. I was stupid enough to think that she might actually be okay; she might actually live. So, no, I don’t think God cares for me. And I don’t believe he wants me to be happy.”
Well, makes sense to me. Hell, I’m surprised that Eric believes there is a God at all, but as we’ve seen, writers seem to find it easier to work from deism to Christianity than from atheism to Christianity.
Let’s see what sensitive Belle, who “brightened the day of all who knew her,” has to say to this tale of heartrending loss.
“This happened such a long time ago—do you still feel this way?”
Wow. Okay, first of all, ten years is not “such a long time ago.” Second of all, idiot, he’s been speaking in the present tense about his feelings. Dammit.
“What about getting stronger and growing from your experiences?”
Yeah, dude, it was only the sudden and traumatizing death of your wife, and sitting next to her dead body for HOURS. Suck it up and grow, asshole!
Eric, uncharacteristically, is mildly perturbed and confused instead of just angry:
“Growing? I lost everything. I became a drunk, had to put my life on hold.”
True dat. And Belle has a pithy response:
“Sometimes bad things happen to good people.”
THAT’S what you’re going with, Ms. Mature Christian? “Bad things happen to good people?”
Unbelievable. Mind blown.
Hey, Belle, how about keeping your big yap shut and just giving the man a hug, huh? I mean, has anyone hugged this man since his loss? Holy crap.
Honestly, no wonder people are leaving the church in droves, if this is the best they have to offer grieving people.
Oh, but I will say that Eric handles this idiocy damn well, with a nod and a…
“I better get you home.”
But Belle’s not done yet. As they pull up to her house, she asks him why he went it alone, when there must have been someone he could have go to for help. I expected a Poor-Little-Rich-Boy response as Eric explains that no, he actually didn’t have anyone (and that seems to be true—he has no family that we’ve seen, and only fair-weather friends), but he simply responds that he did have comfort, from “a bottle.”
Belle, ever the soul of sensitivity, says:
“Not the strongest solution.”
I hate her. So much.
Eric, to his everlasting credit, doesn’t take her up on the fight she is trying so very hard to pick. He just sort of avoids the point by pointing out that there was nothing else to do, and asks:
“What else did I have?”
Belle has been waiting for her chance:
“Maybe more than you realized.”
Oh ZING! He had GOD, don’tcha know! A God who let his young wife die and let him sit with her corpse for hours and who let him become a drunk for five years! THAT God!
Man. Again, Belle’s delivery sucks.
She just lets Eric ponder this as she wanders to her house. And the bittersweet Music of Coming Back to God plays, as Eric heads home, gazes out his window, then picks up and leafs through the Bible/Book.
A day or two later, Belle asks for permission to do a quick cram session at Eric’s house. I guess she just wants to study by his bitchin’ hot tub. And, of course, that means he is around when she gets a call from Kelli’s school, that Kelli is in trouble and needs to be picked up, now. Belle can’t, because she needs to get to her exam like, now, so Eric volunteers to get her.
What follows is actually the most enjoyable sequence of the movie, featuring (with a nice, light touch) a childfree person navigating simple school logistics (Eric to the secretary: “Do I have to sign for her?“). Then, of course, he is mistaken for Kelli’s father by the principal (a much less funny part, mostly because the principal overacts and has a terrible sense of comic timing).
Then, Eric takes Kelli home, but she wants to talk to somebody, and Eric is there, so she simply stops in the schoolyard and begins to unburden herself. After all, she wasn’t really cheating, but just forgot something that she knew, so she double-checked herself on someone else’s paper.
The dialogue here is quite good, with Eric managing to strike an appropriate balance between being an adult, but not an adult with any authority over Kelli (he doesn’t scold her, but mildly comments “You might want to rethink your definition of cheating.“)
Another nice touch: Kelli asks, “Do you ever feel like your life is over?” and it is a moment of humor (Eric being amused by her tweenish angst), and not pathos (Eric thinking of his dead wife).
Maybe I’m making too much of this because so much of this movie has been dull, but I like that they show Eric’s growth through a scene with a minor character, and not with Belle.
Nice callback to earlier scene of Belle being horrible:
Kelli: [Belle] will probably tell me some other deep thing like—
Eric: –“grow from it”?
(My admiration for this scene aside, this particular bit cries out for a reshoot—both actors rush their lines and I could barely understand them.)
Kelli mentions her dead mother and Eric, sweetie that he is, draws her out and just lets her talk.
Kelli also reveals to Eric that Belle was in school in California when their mother died, and she moved back home to help out. Which was already implied, but I guess Eric didn’t know this for a fact.
Later, Belle is nice(r than she was before) and thanks Eric for helping with Kelli. They share a fast food meal and discuss her dead mother. Belle, of course, handled grief in a much healthier way than stupid Eric did, because she trusted God not to give her anything she couldn’t handle. To give her credit, Belle actually gives Eric some credit for strength in this scene, complimenting the strength it took for him to stop drinking. Eric, who apparently took Belle’s snide remarks in the car to heart, points out that he started drinking. Perfect Belle, of course, did not.
I don’t mean to play Tragedy Olympics here, but I will point out their situations were quite different. Belle lost her mother as a young adult. That is incredibly sad, but Belle had her family and friends to comfort and support her, and a job to do (to focus her energies) as she helped raise her brothers and sister. Eric, OTOH, had nobody to help him through the shocking and incredibly traumatic loss of his wife RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIM.
Plus (and I’m probably going to sound like a jerk right now) Belle’s mother died young, but predeceased her children, the normal and expected course of events. Eric was widowed (widowered?) at something like twenty-three. That certainly adds an extra level of shock and horror.
Eric heads to New York for a consultation, and rather cutely calls Belle as soon as he lands, much like a boyfriend would. (I love his nervously awkward attempt at conversation: “So, um…how are your classes going?” and his self-conscious geez-what-a-dork-I-am head shake as he hangs up.)
Back in Utah, Anna and Belle chat. Anna is picking up that Belle likes Eric, but she still kinda wants Belle to pity-date Craig. Belle, for her part, is feeling womany pangs of conscience for no reason (“I was kinda rude to him the last time I saw him…I mean, not really, but still, I shoulda been…”).
Quick refresher: last time Belle saw Craig, he scolded her for not being at his beck and call 24/7, then repeatedly insulted a man while standing in that man’s own yard. So Belle can give herself a break any time, now.
But she doesn’t, and they have lunch together. The sound in this scene is horrible—it sound like they stuck a boombox under the table to simulate restaurant music playing.
Belle is miffed by the fact that after having lunch with her, Craig wants to spend more time with her. I know, right? Shocking. Almost as though when she acts like she likes dating him, he wants to plan the next date. Creepy stalker that he is, he is almost charming (expressing wishes for her happiness), but then overplays his hand by caressing her hands and waxing on about how special she is. Belle, of course, does not see this behavior as grounds for just cutting off the relationship.
Can this relationship be saved?
Then Belle decides to play creepy stalker herself, wandering around Eric’s house at night, contemplating his commemorative liquor bottle, etc. She considers calling him, but decides against it.
So, we know that with Belle and Eric careening towards mutual admissions of affection, we need a final conflict!