Friday, May 28, 2021

Cruella

♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

Young Estella (Tipper Seifert-Cleveland) has always considered herself to be a genius, causing a lot of friction in her school that leads to her expulsion. Her downward spiral is further exacerbated by the trauma of witnessing her mother’s death in the mansion of renowned fashion tycoon Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson), an event that the little girl has always believed to be her own fault. Ending up in London as a street urchin, she lives from day-to-day conning people along with fellow petty thieves Jasper (Joel Fry) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser). However, her life’s greatest ambition is to work in fashion. As her stars align, her path crosses once again with the Baroness, working her way from the clueless newbie all the way up to her most prized designer. As certain truths are revealed about their intertwined fates, Estella unleashes Cruella (Emma Stone), ever ambitious and hungry for vengeance.

Cruella delves a little too deep into soap opera territory with its forced twists and plot devices. The way the plot unfolds makes you feel as though you are watching an edgy revenge-themed telenovela right after the seven o’clock news. It is understandable, though, that such attempt on justifying the journey of a once iconic yet one-dimensional villain cannot really be avoided. Ambitions and motivations are what you need, and sometimes the only clear path towards poetic justice is through those contrived hoops.

However, what makes Cruella a joy to watch is the way this tired storyline is tackled by the director by virtue of the costumes as well as the killer soundtrack. The OST brings you right back to the heart of the 70’s. For someone not old enough to have experienced that era, this film makes you feel as though you have lived through it yourself. The images and earworms are just so vivid like that. As such, there is a lot of distraction to keep you busy from noticing the loopholes and recycled storyline.

Acting is another strong aspect of this movie thanks to the combined bravura of the two Oscar-winning Emmas. Thompson is irresistibly larger than life in her avantgarde frocks and campy demeanor. Stone, on the other hand, gives the character a whole new dimension that was kind of lacking in the character’s late 90’s iteration. What Glenn Close made undeniably iconic, Stone turns a tad more relatable to some extent via the everyday BS this future villain has to go through before making it to the top. While killing puppies is not a universal character flaw we all tend to share, ambition and vengeance, arguably, are.

In any case, it must have been a problem with the script because some things just do not add up. If we are to believe that this is canon to 1996’s 101 Dalmatians, the story does not really explain how Cruella de Vil ends up as the frustrated dog killer that she will be in that movie. If anything, Estella’s own dogs and even the trio of her archnemesis’ Dalmatians actually play pivotal roles in her very own journey. There is one short clip where she appears to be hinting on her dog-murdering future, but there was no follow-up to this. In fact, it’s also a happy ending as far as the canines of this movie are concerned.

Or maybe they are just aiming for a sequel that will fully explain Cruella’s total transformation? I wouldn’t mind seeing that follow-up movie. As for the comparisons with DC’s Joker, perhaps the similarities end with both characters being iconic villains as well as their rather flamboyant sense of fashion. Do not expect Cruella to mimic Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker’s successful attempt at doubling as a social commentary of sorts. That simply does not happen here, and expecting it to do so will just ruin your enjoyment.

Anyway, stay tuned for the cameos in the mid-credits’ scene. They make you want to segue straight to 101 Dalmatians, which also happens to be on Disney+. Feels like a movie marathon is coming up!

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