Directed by Andrew Dosunmu, “Beauty” is a film about a black singer on the verge of fame in the 70s. The film attempts to comment on the damaging effects of the music industry, but it is too distant to invoke any feelings. Beauty is a young girl who has been groomed by her mother to become an extraordinary singer. Her mother was a church singer who was not as successful as she had hoped to be, so Beauty became her only hope. The film tries to bring forth how fame affected her relationship with her family and her lover, Jasmine. The film has a vagueness that does not essentially work in its favor.
Plot Summary: What Is the Film About?
Beauty is in love with Jasmine/Jas, but she has to keep her relationship secret from her parents, who were staunch Christians. Only her brother Abel knows about their relationship, and he tries his best to protect his sister. Their half-brother, Cain, always tried to win the affection of their father and was distant from Beauty and Abel. Beauty’s father wanted her to be a commercial success, while her mother believed she needed more time to truly excel. Beauty never got the opportunity to form her own opinion. She was taught from a young age to obey every decision her parents made, even if she disagreed with them. Her father and her mother portrayed the image of a perfect family, but they were far from it. The husband and wife did not share a respectful marriage; the wife had to mostly submit to her husband’s dominance.
When a record company approached Beauty to sign a contract with them, her father was enthusiastic about it, but her mother wanted to keep her away from the exploitative industry. A fit of certain jealousy was anticipated by Beauty when her mother tried to object to her daughter’s journey to fame. It was only Jasmine who cared about Beauty, in all honesty. She challenged her to question the decisions made by her parents and even warned her how signing the contract would eventually change their relationship.
Did Beauty Sign The Contract?
Jasmine had advised Beauty to find a lawyer for herself to better understand the contract. She announced this decision in front of her parents and the white representative of the music record company. Her father took her aside and threatened her to sign the contract because they had invested enough money and time in her, and she ought to respect their decision for her. Her father realized that it was Jasmine who had taught his daughter to think independently. Nonetheless, Beauty once again obeyed her father’s decision and signed the contract. Later that night, her father instructed Cain to get Jasmine away from his daughter. Even though he did not know about their relationship, their friendship threatened his position. Cain attempted to fulfill his father’s intention, and he asked Abel to join him. But in the end, Abel manages to drive the car off the road, and the two fight it out in the streets. Even though Cain was unable to perform the task his father had asked of him, Jasmine faced violence. While Jas was not into drugs, she went behind a bar with the bartender, who promised to provide the drugs that Beauty enjoyed. But the bartender physically assaulted her, and she was admitted to the hospital. Jasmine believed that they must live their separate lives because, some way or the other, their relationship seemed impossible for her to sustain, but Beauty refused to give up. After signing the contract, the two moved into an apartment in a city that was bought by the music record company (Colony).
Ending Explained: What Happened To Jasmine And Beauty?
Beauty prepared to be a pop star, and at the same time, she started to voice her opinion. The white woman (colonizer) at the music label company instructed the lovebirds to not display any affection in public. Beauty had to be a heterosexual fantasy that everyone would desire. Therefore, her sexuality had to remain hidden. Not just that, the kind of music she would make had to be loved by the black community, but it also had to make white teenagers obsess about her. Therefore, a certain whitewashing of her music was desired by them. They prepared her to answer questions in a docile manner and prompted her to mention how she was waiting for the right man to enter her life. She was advised to sport long black hair that was calculated to be the most desirable by the black community, but Beauty refused to wear her hair straight. She was proud of her curls and wanted to keep her hair short. She was taught to speak like a white woman and sing according to the taste of the whites. The colonizer had pictures of prominent black musicians, indicating how the “Colony” music label’s sole purpose was to make music made by black artists more likable to the white community. Even though she was shaped by the company, she tried to voice her opinion whenever she could.
Jasmine was by Beauty’s side all this time. She documented Beauty’s journey to fame and was eager for her partner’s success. But Beauty started to drift away and showed an interest in a man who lived next door. Even though initially Jasmine did not think much of it, by the end, she knew that their relationship would be affected by it. Beauty had by then lost contact with her family, though one day, her brother, Cain, came to the city to inform her about her father’s sickness. She went to visit him at the hospital and what she thought would be a conversation about forgiveness turned out to be just the opposite. Even though her father’s health was deteriorating, he wanted Beauty to give him his share of the money that she received from the music company. He said that she owed it to them, but this time Beauty retorted, saying that she owed them nothing. She left the chain her father had gifted her and added that she would be a success one day and she would celebrate it with everyone else, apart from her father.
In the end, Beauty is invited to the Irv Merlin television show, where she has to sing “Somewhere over the rainbow.” She initially refused to perform that song but had to later agree to it. She listened to Judy Garland’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” but by the middle of it, she switched to Patti LaBelle’s version of it. She felt a gush of emotions as she listened to the song, wanting to express what she felt but knowing that she had to perform according to what was expected of her. She was to be famous, but she struggled to comprehend who she was and how she wanted to be remembered. On the day of the show, she was with Jasmine in her dressing room when her mother entered and showed her support for her daughter’s success. After her mother left, there was another knock at the door. It was the neighbor Jasmine had heard about before. Beauty had invited him to her show to prove how magical her voice was. The two were attracted to each other, and there was visible tension in the room. After the man left, Jasmine questioned Beauty about it. She reluctantly replied that she just wanted to prove herself. But after Beauty left the room, Jas was in tears, fearing the worst that she had always known would happen. Beauty is introduced as the upcoming sensation, and she waits for the curtains to rise.
The film attempts to bring together the experiences of various black artists who were exploited by the white labels. The story has a stark similarity to the life of Whitney Houston, though the film makes no mention of it. The film had potential considering what it wanted to say, but, in the end, it was poorly expressed.
Directed by Andrew Dosunmu, the film is streaming on Netflix.