May 2021 Roundup

Cruella

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Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures // Directed by Craig Gillespie // Starring Emma Stone, Emma Thompson, Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser, Emily Beecham

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Oh the need and desire for origin stories. Why oh why doth you plague Hollywood? Throughout film history, iconic characters have endured because of the ambiguity that surrounds them, and, in some cases, when the shroud is lifted a crushing disappointment comes crashing down. With Cruella, Disney has opted for a refreshingly different approach. Yes, it’s still an origin story from child to adult but the decision to adopt a punk rock vision separates Cruella from the majority of its peers - what could have been a movie focusing on a violent child skinning and murdering dogs becomes the story of a struggling fashion designer in 1970s London caught up in the dog-eat-dog (geddit?) world of fashion whilst dealing with the loss of her mother to an unknown perpetrator. Fear not, dogs are still involved. Emma Stone steps into Glenn Close’s legendary shoes with aplomb and delivers a feisty, energetic performance as the antihero portrayed here and she is assisted by some fabulous costume designers and hair and makeup stylists to create new iconic looks for everyone’s favourite dog skinner. She is ably matched along the way by Emma Thompson as the deliciously cruel Baroness von Hellman - Cruella’s employer and eventual enemy. The ever-escalating fashion duel the pair have delivers some dazzling set pieces and gives Cruella some reason to exist - as with any origin story, the question of necessity lingers though it will be interesting to see how we get from this character iteration to 101 Dalmations in future stories. Additionally, the movie is powered by a banging soundtrack packed with songs from the era in a move that will alienate some but absolutely enthralled me. A few lulls in pacing aside and despite the movie threatening to overstay its welcome, Cruella is a surprisingly stylish, prickly and fun backstory for an already-iconic character.