director: Craig Gillespie (I, tonya, lars and the real girl)
starring: emma stone, emma thompson, Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser
REVIEWER: lyall carter
A live-action prequel feature film following a young Cruella de Vil.
You’ve got to hand it to Disney. Whether it’s Disney animation, Marvel or Pixar they manage to stay ahead of the cultural and cinematic curve while at the same time making darn entertaining films. Cruella is ambitious in its push at the boundaries too. It’s the live action reimagining that feels the most original and it’s a heck of a lot darker than Disney has been in a long time. Although both Emma’s are in stupendous form, the costume design is Oscar worthy and the sound track is cracking, the story doesn’t deliver quite as strongly as it possibly could have.
Set in 1970s London amidst the punk rock revolution, Cruella follows a young grifter named Estella (Emma Stone), a clever and creative girl determined to make a name for herself with her designs. She befriends a pair of young thieves who appreciate her appetite for mischief, and together they are able to build a life for themselves on the London streets. One day, Estella’s flair for fashion catches the eye of the Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson), a fashion legend who is devastatingly chic and terrifyingly haute. But their relationship sets in motion a course of events and revelations that will cause Estella to embrace her wicked side and become the raucous, fashionable and revenge-bent Cruella.
Cruella oozes with ambition. From the intricate detailing of the set design and costumes, to the soundtrack that is the beating heart of the film, it feels very un-Disney in the best possible way. While there are a couple of Disney tropes thrown in for good measure, during the first half of the film it feels like we are headed in a raw, fresh, new direction.
Unfortunately it’s in the final stages of the film that Cruella abandons its high ambition and heads back towards a seemingly more family friendly ending. While the film still remains entertaining, the thematic change does feel slightly jarring.
Cruella is a beautiful work of cinematic art that completely immerses you in the world of fashion from her creation of disguises for criminal jobs to the magnificent beauty of a dress that seemingly pours out of the back of a rubbish truck, Oscar winning costume designer Jenny Beavan has done it again. Come award season next year she deserves every gong.
Both Emma’s are stupendous with Stone flitting between the reserved Estella and the scene stealing Cruella with ease and Thompson perfectly encapsulating the narcissistic cold steel of the Baroness. Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser are utter perfection as Jasper and Horace bringing some much needed comedic relief to proceedings.
Although both Emma’s are in stupendous form, the costume design is Oscar worthy and the sound track is cracking, the story doesn’t quite deliver as strongly as it possibly could have.