Sunday 30 May 2021

Cruella (Movie Review)

Disney continues its trend of giving its classic villains origin stories. And the latest one to follow in the footsteps of Maleficent and Elsa is Cruella de Vil, the evil socialite from One Hundred and One Dalmatians. This is actually not the character's first foray into live-action, having been played by Glenn Close in two previous live-action adaptations. But this time around, Cruella is portrayed by Emma Stone, who steps into the role with all the class of a socialite putting on a tight leather glove.

In the film, a young woman named Estella dreams of becoming a fashion designer. And her dream becomes reality when she is taken under the wing of Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson), the head of one of London's leading fashion houses. Under her tutelage, she begins to learn just what it takes to come out ahead in the high fashion world. But as their relationship develops, so also would the rivalry between them that would serve as the catalyst for Estella's transformation into the villainous Cruella de Vil.

Cruella is a movie that has a lot going for it. The film is not only an origin story, it is also a heist film and a revenge movie, rolled into one. It borrows heavily from the likes of The Devil Wears Prada, mirroring that other film's tale of a fledgling fashionista struggling to learn the ropes. But the movie did strive to forge its own identity through its vibrant reinterpretation of its source material.

It was brought to life by a pair of brilliant performances. Emma Thompson was appropriately evil and despicable as Baroness von Hellman, but Emma Stone proved to be every bit her equal, and the film was at its strongest when both women tried to outdo one another. The supporting cast was just as colorful, with Paul Walter Hauser providing much of the comic relief.

The film also boasts some incredible production design that really help capture the feel of 1970s London. And the costumes on display were just as brilliant as the larger-than-life characters, even though that fire dress did look like it was ripped straight out of Hunger Games. The soundtrack was likewise populated by a greatest hits collection of 70s classic, and I found myself singing along for much of the film.

In terms of issues, the main one I had with the film was Emma Stone's transition from Estella to Cruella. I felt like it was just a little too exaggerated for my liking, which made the development a bit jarring at first. But the whole thing eventually comes together in a way that makes the film greater than the sum of its parts.

Cruella is a fresh albeit darker take on the origins of the eponymous Disney villainess. More importantly, it is a fun, energetic film that moves along at an almost breakneck pace. It did tend to run a little too long though, and its resolution didn't really give much justification for why that was. But if you fancy an unusual coming-of-age story bolstered with laughs and great performances, then the movie has plenty of that on offer.

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