Cruella de Vil has forever been an icon of flamboyant villainy, being an alluring London heiress with a fondness for designing fur coats out of Dalmatians. She appeared in Walt Disney Productions’ 17th animated feature film, namely 1961’s 101 Dalmatians, alongside its many sequels, live-actions, and spin-offs. Craig Gillespie’s latest comedy-drama, Cruella, spins the yarn of an origin story like no alternative, all whereas introducing components of dark comedy and camp extravagance that sway on the verge of being termed “anti-Disney.” Overtly daring and with expertise plain-woven, Cruella excels on multiple fronts - prime being its dark humor and aesthetics, and a deliciously chic Emma Stone.
There’s surprisingly a large number of old-style 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 evil dognapper from One Hundred and One Dalmatians. She currently an icily supercool supervillain and Stone provides everything she’s got – that could be a hefty quantity – as Estella, a young orphan woman with a genetic quirk of black-and-white hair. I was hoping for some Susan Sontag gags, however, you can’t have everything. She grows up in glam-rock London of the mid-1970s, a world of Izal loo paper, Ford England police cars, and Golden Wonder crisps, living during a Faginesque thieves’ habitation presided over by two dodgy scallywags, Jasper (Joel Fry) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser), who took her in when she was a bolshy homeless waif and became a pro in the ways of thievery.
"Cruella" confounds expectations in most satisfying ways, particularly for what aggregates to a supervillain origin-story prologue galvanized by a 60-year-old animated movie. It is crammed with circumstances, set pieces, and moments of characterization and performance that recommend it had everything needed to support on its own two high-heeled feet, minus the guardrails of copyright owned by the greatest entertainment aggregate the world has ever seen.
Stone is the foundation of Cruella, and she does justice to it completely, immersing herself within the double roles that flesh out the subtlety of a sentimentally driven backstory. Estella’s transformation into Cruella de Vil is neither rushed nor forced, as she enfolds her new, devilish alter-ego with prominent flamboyance, albeit pushed forward by unendurable pain. Whereas it’s thrilling to see Cruella go up against the Baroness - scenes that are beautifully shot, particularly the neon-tinted sequence whereby she reveals a remarkable punk costume while The Stooges play behind the scenes - it is vital to address how completely defeated she is in life. This comes with the danger of losing oneself in the madness, something that is transferred with utter care onscreen, creating Cruella’s story one that’s marked with real depth. Thompson is equally fascinating as the cold and calculating Baroness, and it’s possibly likely that audiences will realize deeply excretory in terms of poetic justice.
While Stone tethers and grounds Cruella entirely, it is Hauser’s performance that stands out throughout the film, as he adds a part of glee that feels natural and modest. Most significantly, Cruella’s artistry would go understated without addressing the film’s spectacular costume design, which is essentially influenced by punk rock aesthetics and an urge to make a daring, sizzling statement. Whereas most Disney remakes are restricted by an absence of originality, both in terms of script and character development, Cruella emerges as an indispensable act of revolution, with the titular character donning an identity endowed with true essence. Gratuitous to mention, Cruella is the future.
The movie hits a shaky climax in its final act when it becomes a contest of wills. It’s here that the leads run amok. Thompson especially achieves cartoonish grandiloquence, a supervillain armored in high fashion. Each head tilt, smirk, and glare is a non-physical assault on the Baroness' enemies and underlings, some of who do not understand they have been symbolically dead until their heads hit the basket.
“Cruella” follows the existence of Estella, a peculiar, exuberant, and an imaginative young girl who doesn’t quite match into the world. Her mother warns her not to let the “Cruella” side aspect of her temperament get ahead of her, however, it lurks and arrives in full force ten years later. In fashion terms, it's less about "Who wore it better" than "Who wore it outrageously," and both shine. "Cruella" will not be to everyone's taste, but to loan from the original song, if Stone and Thompson together don't entertain you at least a bit, no wickedness will.
Final Score – [7.7/10]
Reviewed by – Ritika Kispotta
Follow her @KispottaRitika on Twitter (https://twitter.com/KispottaRitika)
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