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‘Cruella’ Movie Review: Wickedly Stylish and Delightfully Twisted

Emma Stone is the absolute epicenter of Cruella, and she owns the role completely, immersing herself within the dual roles

Ritika Kispotta - Fri, 28 May 2021 19:51:51 +0100 540 Views
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Cruella de Vil has always been an icon of flamboyant villainy, being a glamorous London heiress with a penchant for fashioning fur coats out of Dalmatians. She appeared in Walt Disney Productions’ 17th animated feature film, namely 1961’s 101 Dalmatians, along with its many sequels, live-actions, and spin-offs. Craig Gillespie’s latest comedy-drama, Cruella, spins the yarn of an origin story like no other, all while introducing elements of dark comedy and camp extravagance that teeter on the verge of being termed “anti-Disney.” Brazenly bold and expertly woven, Cruella excels on multiple fronts - prime being its dark humor and aesthetics, and a deliciously sublime Emma Stone.

There’s an unexpectedly huge amount of old-fashioned fun to be had in Disney’s spectacular new origin-myth story from screenwriters Aline Brosh McKenna, Kelly Marcel, and Steve Zissis, rebooting Cruella de Vil, the wicked dognapper from One Hundred and One Dalmatians. She is now an icily supercool supervillain, and Stone gives it everything she’s got – which is a considerable amount – as Estella, a young orphan girl with a genetic quirk of black-and-white hair. I was hoping for some Susan Sontag gags, but you can’t have everything. She grows up in glam-rock London of the mid-1970s, a world of Izal loo paper, Ford Anglia police cars, and Golden Wonder crisps, living in a Faginesque thieves’ lair presided over by two dodgy scallywags, Jasper (Joel Fry) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser), who took her in when she was a stroppy homeless waif and schooled her in the ways of thievery.

"Cruella" confounds expectations in most delightful ways, particularly for what amounts to a supervillain origin-story prequel inspired by a 60-year-old animated movie. It is filled with situations, set pieces, and moments of characterization and performance that suggest it had everything required to stand on its own two high-heeled feet, minus the guardrails of intellectual property owned by the largest entertainment conglomerate the world has ever seen.

Stone is the absolute epicenter of Cruella, and she owns the role completely, immersing herself within the dual roles that flesh out the nuances of an emotionally driven backstory. Estella’s transformation into Cruella de Vil is neither rushed nor forced, as she embraces her new, devilish alter-ego with great panache, albeit pushed forward by unbearable pain. While it is thrilling to watch Cruella go up against the Baroness - scenes that are beautifully shot, especially the neon-tinted sequence wherein she unravels a stunning punk costume while The Stooges play in the background - it is important to acknowledge how utterly broken she is in life. This comes with the risk of losing oneself in the madness, something which is translated with utter care onscreen, making Cruella’s story one that is marked with genuine depth. Thompson is equally delightful as the cold and calculating Baroness, and it is most likely that audiences will find the ending deeply cathartic in terms of poetic justice.

While Stone tethers and grounds Cruella as a whole, it is Hauser’s performance that stands out throughout the film, as he adds an element of hilarity that feels natural and unassuming. Most importantly, Cruella’s brilliance would go understated without acknowledging the film’s breathtaking costume design, which is largely influenced by punk rock aesthetics and an urge to make a bold, fiery statement. Whereas most Disney remakes have been limited by a lack of originality, both in terms of script and character development, Cruella emerges as a much-needed act of rebellion, with the titular character donning an identity invested with true meaning. Needless to say, Cruella is the future.

The movie hits a giddy peak in its final act when it becomes a contest of wills. It’s here that the leads cut loose. Thompson in particular achieves cartoonish grandiosity, a supervillain armored in haute couture. Every head tilt, sneer, and side-eye is a non-physical assault on the Baroness' enemies and underlings, some of who don't realize they've been symbolically executed until their heads hit the basket.

“Cruella” follows the life of Estella, a curious, rambunctious, and creative young girl who doesn’t quite fit into the world. Her mother warns her not to let the “Cruella” side of her personality get the better of her, but it lurks and arrives in full force a decade later. In fashion terms, it's less "Who wore it better" than "Who wore it nastier," and both excel. "Cruella" won't be to everyone's taste, but to borrow from the original song, if Stone and Thompson squaring off don't entertain you at least a little, no evil thing will.

Final Score – [7.7/10]
Reviewed by – Ritika Kispotta
Follow her @KispottaRitika on Twitter (https://twitter.com/KispottaRitika)

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