The Beautician and the Beast
The Beautician and the Beast is a 1997 American romantic comedy film directed by Ken Kwapis. It stars Fran Drescher as a New York City beautician who is hired, under the false assumption she is a science teacher, to tutor the four children of a dictator, played by Timothy Dalton, of a fictional Eastern European nation. Ian McNeice, Patrick Malahide, Lisa Jakub, Michael Lerner, Adam LaVorgna, Phyllis Newman, and Heather DeLoach appear in supporting roles. Produced by Drescher's company High School Sweethearts in partnership with Paramount Pictures, The Beautician and the Beast is her first starring role in a film. It was part of her attempt to transition from television to film.
|The Beautician and the Beast|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Ken Kwapis|
|Written by||Todd Graff|
|Music by||Cliff Eidelman|
|Cinematography||Peter Lyons Collister|
|Edited by||Jon Poll|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$11.5 million|
Drescher chose Todd Graff to write the screenplay because of his familiarity with her style of humor. She pitched and sold the project to transition her career from television to film. Filming took place in Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills, California, and Sychrov Castle in the Czech Republic. Kwapis consulted with dialect coach Francie Brown to create the fictional language Slovetzian for the film. Cliff Eidelman composed the soundtrack which features the London Metropolitan Orchestra.
The Beautician and the Beast received primarily negative reviews. Dalton and Drescher received mixed reviews for their performances. Drescher was nominated for the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress for her role. Commentators noted that the film deals with themes of cultural differences and takes inspiration from outside sources. The Beautician and the Beast was a box office disappointment, grossing roughly $11.5 million against a production budget of $16 million.
The film opens with an animated sequence in which a prince awakens a princess with a kiss, though she rejects his romantic advances and runs away. The scene shifts to beautician Joy Miller, who teaches a New York City beauty school. One of her students accidentally sets the classroom ablaze by igniting hair spray with a cigarette, but she escorts her class and caged animals to safety. A headline in the New York Post praises Joy as a hero; Ira Grushinsky, a diplomat from the fictional Eastern European country Slovetzia, mistakes Joy for a science teacher after seeing the cover. He hires Joy as a tutor for the four children of the Slovetzia dictator Boris Pochenko, though she misinterprets his job offer as teaching hairstyling. After arriving at Slovetzia, Ira is surprised to discover Joy's identity, but she convinces him to keep it a secret.
Despite a bad first impression with Boris, Joy gets along with his children Katrina, Karl, Masha, and Yuri. While teaching them about life outside Slovetzia, she also helps them gain confidence in themselves. She learns about Katrina's relationship with Alek, the leader of the youth rebellion, and encourages Karl to pursue his dream of becoming an artist. During this time, Joy frequently clashes with Pochenko, who is disturbed by her independence and his inability to frighten her. Joy and Katrina go to a nightclub, which also operates as a base for the rebellion; Prime Minister Leonid Kleis follows the pair and arrests Alek.
Growing closer to Joy, Boris confesses to her that he wants to change his negative reputation as a "beast" among Western nations; she encourages him to form closer relationships with his citizens and shaves his mustache. During a trip to a factory, Joy realizes that Slovetzia lacks trade unions and pushes for the workers to hold a strike. She also arranges a secret meeting between Katrina and Alek in his cell. Despite Leonid's advice to fire Joy, she convinces Boris to hold a party for the summit of visiting emissaries to debut his new image; he places her in charge of the preparations. As part of the summit, Boris considers the release of Alek despite Leonid's disagreement. On the day of the event, Joy reveals her identity to Boris, but he does not care about her credentials. He thanks her for bringing happiness to him and his family.
During the party, Leonid confronts Joy about her role in Katrina's secret meetings with Alek; he threatens to have her arrested for treason. Following Boris' decision to keep Alek in jail, Joy informs him that she had set up meetings between Alek and Katrina; he argues with Joy over her meddling in Slovetzia's political affairs. She quits and returns to New York City. Over the course of several weeks, Leonid quietly takes over administrative duties and signs death sentences in Boris' name. When Ira informs him of the changes in power, Boris strips Leonid of his duties and arrests him on charges of treason. He reunites with Joy in New York City, informing her that he freed Alek and agreed to hold free elections in Slovetzia. Boris kisses Joy after admitting his feelings for her.
The cast is:
- Fran Drescher as Joy Miller
- Timothy Dalton as Boris Pochenko
- Ian McNeice as Ira Grushinsky
- Patrick Malahide as Leonid Kleist
- Lisa Jakub as Katrina Pochenko
- Michael Lerner as Jerry Miller
- Adam LaVorgna as Karl Pochenko
- Phyllis Newman as Judy Miller
- Heather DeLoach as Masha Pochenko
- Kyle and Tyler Wilkerson as Yuri Pochenko
- Timothy Dowling as Alek
- Michael Immel as Stage Manager
- Tonya Watts as Model
- Tamara Mello as Consuela
- Celeste Russi as Lupe
- Daniel R. Escobar as Hector
- Billy Brown as Fireman
- Jorge Noa as Photographer
- Carmela Rappazo as Student
- Clyde Wrenn as Student
- Earl Carroll as Factory Worker
- Vincent Schiavelli as Jailer
- Marianne Muellerleile as Chef
- R. Sparkle Stillman as Cousin Doris
- Edmund Cambridge as Elderly Man
- Todd Graff as Denny
- Gene Chronopoulos as Servant
- David Shackelford as Kitchen Worker
- Michael Horton as Fairy-tale Prince
- Jane Jenkins as Neighbor at Party
- Zdenek Vencl as Czech Guard
- Vaclav Legner as Czech Guard
- Leon Silver as Vaclav
- Stephen Marcus as Ivan
- Marshal Silverman as Tailor
- Dana Bednarova as Svetlana
Fran Drescher developed and pitched the concept for The Beautician and the Beast. She described the film, originally titled The King and Oy, as a "spin" on the musical The King and I (1951). Drescher was an executive producer for the film, which was handled through her production company High School Sweethearts. Todd Graff was attached to The Beautician and the Beast during its pitch; Drescher chose him because of their similar sense of humor, and said "he was familiar with her voice and what type of dialogue suits her best". While producing the film, Drescher wanted only a script that was "written properly for [her]". Rewrites on the script occurred up until shooting started. Along Drescher, Roger Birnbaum and Peter Marc Jacobson were also executive producers for the film. Graff was a producer alongside Howard W. Koch, Jr..
Drescher pursued her own film project due to the success of her sitcom The Nanny. Previously, she had only acted in supporting roles, first appearing in the 1977 drama Saturday Night Fever; Joy was her first starring role in a feature film. Worried about an audience's response to her move to film, Drescher modeled Joy after her previous performances; she explained: "It was a specific and strategic choice to not have the audience have to work too hard to accept me as another character. I wanted it to be an easy transition so they wouldn't have to bite off more than they can chew." In regard to this audience expectation, director Ken Kwapis said Drescher "has had to overcome a lot of skepticism about her voice, her abilities, the specificity of her comedy". He described the film as "more romantic than comic", wanting it to introduce Drescher's vulnerability and "romantic side" alongside her "loud and brassy" comedy.
Dalton was announced as part of the cast in July 1996. Although Drescher had initially imagined Kevin Kline as Boris, he was unavailable. Kwapis said that Dalton had "a lot of charm and a very gentle tone". Comedians Graham Elwood and Chris Mancini considered his casting to be "a testament to the time", writing "that's how popular Fran Drescher was". The A.V. Club's Will Harris classified The Beautician and the Beast as one of his lighter and more comedic projects. During a 2014 interview, Dalton shared that he had a positive experience while creating the film, and praised Drescher for her comic timing. Describing herself as "very protective" of Dalton during the filming, Drescher helped him with the comedy and ensured that he had enough comedic parts.
The Beautician and the Beast was shot in the Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills, California and Sychrov Castle in the Czech Republic. The portions in the Czech Republic were shot in the fall of 1996; during filming, Drescher hired a chef from Tuscany to prepare meals for her. Peter Lyons Collister handled the cinematography, and Jon Poll did the editing. Kwapis recruited dialect coach Francie Brown to construct the fictional language Slovetzian; it has influences from Czech, Russian, and Hungarian. The Beautician and the Beast was completed on a budget of $16 million. The film's final cut is 107 minutes long.
Fran Drescher attributed the film's humor to the "juxtaposition of her colorful American character onto a dark, oppressive-looking castle". According to film critic Emanuel Levy, the film personifies a "culture clash of Western democracy vs. rigid and inefficient communism" through Joy and Boris. Levy wrote that Joy pushes Slovetzia into "the liberal, technologically advanced 21st century", and The Baltimore Sun's Stephen Hunter characterized as the "very spirit of liberalism" and the "distilled essence of yenta". Critics have compared Boris to Joseph Stalin. Hunter believed the comparison was intention, "complete to tunic, brush cut, inscrutable expression and pious delta of mustache", but clarified that the film quickly removes these markers to emphasize his transformation into a more democratic leader.
Critics often cited The Beautician and the Beast as an adaptation of the fairy tale Beauty and the Beast, although it has also been described as largely inspired by The Nanny. The film's focus on gender and cultural differences was likened to the stage musicals The King and I and The Sound of Music (1959). Barry Monush, a researcher for the Paley Center for Media, highlighted the scene in which Joy creates clothing from Ralph Lauren bedding as the most obvious allusion to The Sound of Music. Levy interpreted The Beautician and the Beast as a "musical without songs". It was also compared to Ernst Lubitsch's, specifically Ninotchka (1939) and The Shop Around the Corner (1940). Author and music producer Didier C. Deutsch wrote that the soundtrack for The Beautician and the Beast was similar to those in 1940s films. Katrina's relationship with Alek was likened to the play Romeo and Juliet, while the opening animation was seen as a parody of the 1959 film Sleeping Beauty.
|The Beautician and the Beast|
|Soundtrack album by|
|Released||February 11, 1997|
|Genre||Feature film soundtrack|
The soundtrack for The Beautician and the Beast was composed by Cliff Eidelman and recorded at the CTS Studios in Wembley. Its 19 songs feature the London Metropolitan Orchestra. The score incorporates elements of Russian classical music and waltz. Eidelman composed 17 of the track, while the remaining two ("L 'Internationale" and "The J Waltz") are traditional works by composers Pierre De Geyter and Jerry Graff, respectively. A choir is featured on "L 'Internationale". John Beal composed the film's trailer music; although it was not included on the soundtrack, it was later released on a compilation album of Beal's trailer music.
Milan Records released the soundtrack on February 11, 1997, as an audio CD; it was later made available through the music streaming service Spotify. The soundtrack received mixed reviews from critics. Didier C. Deutsch praised it as "charmingly old-fashioned romantic score". AllMusic's Jason Ankeny commended Eidelman for not relying on the "sweetness and sentimentality that capsize so many comedic scores", but he criticized the melodies as "leaden and unfocused, with none of the effervescence the genre demands".
|2.||"Joy Falls on a Cloud"||Cliff Eidelman||1:19|
|3.||"The Castle"||Cliff Eidelman||1:38|
|4.||"Party Preparations"||Cliff Eidelman||1:41|
|5.||"Walking on the Edge"||Cliff Eidelman||1:29|
|6.||"Falling for the President"||Cliff Eidelman||2:35|
|7.||"Pochenko Meets the Peasants"||Cliff Eidelman||2:07|
|8.||"L 'Internationale"||Pierre De Geyter||1:45|
|9.||"Kleist Blackmails Joy"||Cliff Eidelman||2:02|
|10.||"His Excellency"||Cliff Eidelman||0:34|
|11.||"Cinderella's Confession"||Cliff Eidelman||1:51|
|12.||"The Chicken"||Cliff Eidelman||1:10|
|13.||"Ballroom Waltz"||Cliff Eidelman||1:31|
|14.||"The J Waltz"||Jerry Graff||2:44|
|15.||"Boris' Proud Speech"||Cliff Eidelman||1:10|
|16.||"You Are a Beast"||Cliff Eidelman||2:11|
|17.||"Going Away"||Cliff Eidelman||2:20|
|18.||"The Prince and the Princess"||Cliff Eidelman||1:35|
Release and box office
The premiere of The Beautician and the Beast was held in Hollywood on February 4, 1997. The film received a MPAA film rating of PG following a review at a Paramount screening room in Los Angeles. The Beautician and the Beast received a wide release on February 7, 1997 through Paramount Pictures as a Koch Company production; it was shown in 1,801 theaters. Emanuel Levy believed it was intended for "the Valentine's Day dating crowd".
The Beautician and the Beast opened at number three in the United States box office, and grossed $4.1 million on its opening weekend. It earned $11,486,880 during its theatrical run; the film made $22,548,300 when adjusted for ticket price inflation. The Beautician and the Beast was the twentieth highest-grossing PG-rated film of 1997, but it failed to meet its budget and was considered a box-office bomb. The VHS release debuted at number 38 on the Billboard Top Video Sales chart on March 21, 1998. A DVD version, including audio commentary by Drescher, was released on June 24, 2003. The Beautician and the Beast was also made available on Prime Video.
The Beautician and the Beast received a rating of 18 percent on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on 22 reviews, with an average rating of 4.7 out of 10. Reviews for the film were primarily negative. Despite praising Drescher for her charm, Roger Ebert felt audiences could not connect with her character since "we never feel she's really uncertain, insecure or vulnerable". MTV News' Eric Snider panned the plot for its lack of humor and character development. As part of his negative review of the script, the Chicago Tribune's Gene Siskel wished that the film was smarter with its parody of The Sound of Music. The film did receive some positive reviews. TV Guide's Maitland McDonagh and IGN's Arnold T. Blumberg found The Beautician and the Beast to be inoffensive and fluffy enough to be enjoyed. A reviewer for The Philadelphia Inquirer summed up the film as the "tastykake of snack movies", and referred to it as "shameless and intermittently funny". Considering the film a classic, Refinery29's Lauren Le Vine praised the chemistry between Drescher and Dalton as an "awkward friction". Jourdain Searles, a co-host of the podcast Bad Romance Podcast, said The Beautician and the Beast was "a masterpiece" and Drescher was "one of the most beautiful women on the planet".
The film received criticism for its similarities to a sitcom. Lisa Schwarzbaum wrote it was "hampered, to greater or lesser degree, by the synthetic conceits of [its] stretched-out stor[y]". William Arnold, writing for The Town Talk, said The Beautician and the Beast, played too much like a television show, and The New York Times' Stephen Holden felt Kwapis and Graff did not elevate the material enough to justify a theatrical release. Joy was criticized by a Lincoln Journal Star reviewer and Didier C. Deutsch for being too similar to Fran Fine, Drescher's character on The Nanny. The Beautician and the Beast has also been cited as a poor example of the romantic comedy genre. The San Diego Reader's Duncan Shepherd dismissed the film as an "inverted and cut-rate Ninotchka"; Refinery29's Erin Donnelly included Joy and Boris on her listicle of 30 romantic comedy pairings that lacked chemistry. Common Sense Media's Grace Montgomery summed it up as a "dated '90s romcom" relying too heavily on clichés and stereotypes. Empire's Nick De Semlyen listed The Beautician and the Beast as an unsuccessful adaptation of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale.
Critics had mostly mixed reviews for Dalton's performance. The Washington Post's Rita Kempley praised Dalton for his campy style, and the Deseret News' Jeff Vice wrote that he had "well-chosen facial expressions and some subtle nuances". Stephen Hunter wrote that he was "eventually amiable", but noted that The Beautician and the Beast was not a star-making vehicle for him. The Los Angeles Times' John Anderson enjoyed Dalton's comedic acting, but wrote that "everyone, however, comes off as stiff next to Drescher". On the other hand, Maitland McDonagh considered Dalton too serious, believing he cast "a damper on the strenuously lighthearted goings-on". A Lincoln Journal Star writer said Dalton had a "constipated scowl", which they felt was an "appropriate mood for sitting through The Beautician and the Beast".
Drescher's performance also received mixed reviews. Although he believed Drescher was too old to play an ingénue character type, Emanuel Levy praised her as "a warm, funny and likable performer". He likened her voice and Jewish mannerisms to Fanny Brice and Barbra Streisand. Praising the film for having the "postwar naivete" of 1950s film, the Chicago Tribune's John Petrakis compared Drescher's style to Judy Holliday; he said Drescher's "big hair, thick makeup, loud clothes and bizarre voice" was reminiscent of Holliday. In more negative comparisons, Jeff Vice believed Drescher was an inferior actress to Deborah Kerr, and Eric Snider panned her role as "a hell-spawned, snort-laughing Mary Poppins". Drescher's voice was also the frequent subject of criticism; Maitland McDonagh said Drescher had a "nasal honk [that] could shatter crystal", but believed her fans would enjoy her performance. Drescher received a nomination for the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress for the 18th Golden Raspberry Awards; she lost to Demi Moore for her performance in the 1997 film G.I. Jane.
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