Actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Director Amma Asante attend the "Belle" premiere at The Paris Theatre on April 28, 2014 in New York City. Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images/AFP
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That's why the simple poster of "Belle," a new film directed by Amma Asante, is so striking."Belle" is the based-on-a-true-story of an 18th century mixed-race woman, Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), brought up in British aristocracy. Those 18th century conventions of speech and etiquette are often gratingly stilted in "Belle," stifling the film of any naturalism."Belle," written by Misan Sagay, was inspired by a 1779 double portrait of Belle and Lady Elizabeth Murray -- one biracial, the other white -- captured in seeming friendship. Little, though, is known of Belle, so the film often feels as though it's grasping to imagine what her life was like, and to artificially connect her with larger story lines from her time. The film shifts to Belle and Lady Elizabeth Murray (Sarah Gadon) as young women.
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