|Beauty’ Review: Andrew Dosunmu’s Latest Struggles To Say Something About Queerness
Even if a queer drama is about struggle, it shouldn’t require great effort to watch. “Beauty,” an ‘80s-set period piece about a young singer’s conflicts with her sexuality, race, and family strife, feels labored and wary before the film hits its second reel. “Beauty” telling the story of a young starlet on the cusp of fame is not a unique one. While it often places its lesbian relationship centrally in the narrative, any commentary on the difficulty of such a relationship, especially involving people of color, adds very little freshness to the proceedings. At best, “Beauty” is thoughtful in how it stages its drama, and its cast is committed to the material. However, the film is thin on characterization, clunky with dialogue, and shallow in its narrative. The most frustrating thing about “Beauty” is it’s a film that reminds you of other films that are far more compelling. It’s niggling to be watching “Beaut” y only to be distracted by Gina Prince-Bythewood’s “Beyond the Lights” (2014) or Barry Jenkins’ “Moonlight” (2016), two films that deal with similar themes with far more delicacy.To get more news about Online integrated Asian and European domestic, you can visit our official website.
Gracie Marie Bradley plays Beauty, a gifted young singer whose stock looks set to rise. She is taught by her God-fearing Mother (Niecy Nash) and pushed by her father (Giancarlo Esposito) to agree to a lucrative career contract that promises much but looks to threaten her identity. Not only as a black woman but as a Lesbian.
“Beauty” starts strongly enough. The jazzy opening montage quickly informs the audience of the film’s lead. Director Andrew Dosunmu’s biggest strength is utilizing visual form and space to accentuate the character’s emotional states. A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it example lies in an early shot of Beauty centrally framed in sharp focus, while the background is filled by a singing church choir situated out of focus. The shot is only up for seconds but instantly gives a viewer a solid heap of information. In a swift moment, Dosunmu delivers to us not only Beauty’s upbringing but also how she feels about it. At times scenes can feel stagey, but it’s clear that the (often wide) compositions and blocking of the characters are well-composed. So often, characters sit on the edge of the frame. There’s often a strong emphasis on negative space and isolation, with Dosunmu smartly using certain close-ups sparsely and effectively to try to distribute an emotional point.
Dosunmu’s movie’s cracks start to show soon however as Lena Waithe’s script lets down the assertive direction with a screenplay that doesn’t have much to say and is filled with obvious signifiers and illusions that lack impact. Beauty’s constantly fighting siblings are named Cain and Able. It doesn’t take a biblical scholar to inform you of what may occur with them. The film name drops various doomed singing stars either by name, needle drop, or inference. Yet each reference feels so cloying. Mostly because the film’s plot is not only cliched but also lacks solid conviction in what it wants to say. Plot strands seem to fade away fast than when they’re formed, and there’s a sneaking feeling that a lot of the film’s meat might have been trimmed. Very often, the film uses its (admittedly good) soundtrack to fill in gaps created by the film’s choppy editing.
This is all in somewhat bizarre contrast to Waithe’s executively produced “Them” (2021), in which the blunt, racial violence aimed at its black protagonists leaned toward indulgence. Here in “Beauty,” the film pulls a few of its narrative punches. “Beauty” treads relatively lighter on issues of queerness and race than expected. It touches on the commercial code-switching deals with the devil that more than a few Black artists have faced. Yet the film reduces much of this to small, underplayed scenes, lacking any painful residue that would linger with anyone faced with those choices.
All this doesn’t stop the harder hitters of the cast from being watchable. The casting of Sharon Stone as a manipulative executive who can’t wait to dictate how Beauty should present herself feels like a sly nod to Stone’s issues within the film industry. Meanwhile, Giancarlo Esposito’s role as Beauty’s domineering father may not hold a candle to his work in “Breaking Bad,” but his performance does more than enough to bring gravitas to many of the family scenes within the feature.
Is this enough? For some, it will be. “Beauty” is coming out when LGBTQ+ and racial topics are on the cultural tips of the internet’s tongue. Its soundtrack is enjoyable, and Dosunmu’s work with director of photography Benoît Delhomme is pleasing to the eye. However, the slightness and muddled storytelling of “Beauty” mar a film which at times feels it has something to say. [C-]