Cruella review: A delectably entertaining but disjointed origin story for a Disney villain.
While it is not without flaws, Emma Stone's portrayal of a classic Disney film is brassy and bold.
There is something intoxicatingly enjoyable about villains.
We all have a soft spot for villains. Villains are allowed to be sassy, dismissive, and to push the boundaries of polite society to which we are not allowed to. Additionally, they always get the best lines.
Who wouldn't want to cheer for the antagonist? Of course, as long as they are not actually skinning dalmatians.
Cruella, starring Emma Stone and Emma Thompson, is supposed to be the wild, brazen origin story of Cruella de Vil, the story of how a young, orphaned girl became a feared and malevolent force in the lives of good-hearted pet owners.
And it almost was – it came dangerously close. However, it is far too long (134 minutes!) and features far too many set pieces. This, combined with a lack of thematic cohesion, results in a mediocre film rather than a spectacular experience.
Cruella (Stone) was originally Estella, a mischievous adolescent with a rebellious streak toward authority. After being expelled from school, her mother Catherine (Emily Beecham) decides to relocate them to London.
Clearly, things do not go according to plan, and Estella finds herself alone on the streets, where she meets Jasper (Joel Fry) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser). By the time they reach their adolescence, the trio has developed into cunning scammers and thieves, robbing former owners of wallets and valuable items.
Estella, on the other hand, aspires to be a fabulous fashion designer like her idol, the Baroness (Emma Thompson).
Estella's journey to becoming Cruella begins when she accepts a position with the extraordinarily self-centered Baroness.
Obviously, numerous events occur in order for that transition to occur, and yet, despite the fact that Cruella frequently feels unending, her character arc is also, ironically, rushed.
The film makes an audacious attempt to explore the inherent duality of a character who is a physical manifestation of both light and darkness. It's attempting to make a point about nature versus nurture, about good versus evil, but it's clumsy, thin, and confused, and thus ends up saying nothing.
There is no connective tissue between the Estella and Cruella divisions, which is surprising given their proximity. Tony McNamara, who wrote The Favourite and The Great, collaborates on this film as a co-screenwriter. However, the script underwent several rewrites, so perhaps some of the hodgepodge DNA remained.
And for all its interest in Cruella's origins, it is completely uninterested in the Baroness's, a character who was utterly delightful to watch in her monstrosity thanks to Thompson's sneering, supercilious performance. However, just because Thompson pronounces each syllable with contempt does not mean the character is complete.
While Stone's performance is dynamic and compelling, it occasionally feels as if director Craig Gillespie is attempting to eke out the same spiky, over-the-top performance that Margot Robbie delivered in his previous film, I, Tonya. However, Stone adds more nuance.
Gillespie also replicates a number of the more heinous needle drops from I, Tonya, which would be irrelevant if you weren't aware he was doing so. However, once recognized, it is difficult to ignore.
However, there are numerous aspects of Cruella that impress, particularly Jenny Beavan's imaginative, eye-popping Vivienne Westwood-inspired costumes and production designer Fiona Crombie's 1970s London punk aesthetic.
It's always quite arresting. When combined with the performances, Cruella manages to be seductively fun and entertaining for the first 90 minutes.
Cruella, on the other hand, is as disjointed as its dramatic antagonist.