Belle movie poster

"Based on a true story" tale of a half-black English heiress (an unfailingly appealing Gugu Mbatha-Raw) navigating a world in which her mother (here safely dead) could have been treated as property. It's also based on a true painting (of the heiress and her cousin), and it does its visual heritage proud. Belle is an artful, occasionally lively updating of Jane Austen-style "Whom shall I marry and how?" social mores, with questions of race providing some additional shading and texture. It's also a plodding, undramatic account of her guardian's (Tom Wilkinson) adherence to the dictum, "Let justice be done, though the heavens may fall." (He's a judge, and his pending ruling on a slavery-related insurance case could threaten English prosperity, or so we are repeatedly told.) A few fine expressions of genuine humanity, but also plenty of speechmaking for those who prefer the piquancy of moral righteousness over butter and salt on their movie popcorn. 2014.

Matthew Lickona

This movie is not currently in theaters.

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