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CRUELLA Review

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Disney have just pulled off one of the biggest surprises of 2021. I was one of those people who was wondering what all the fuss was about when Disney first announced that they were making a film that would explore the beginnings of one of their vilest villains – the dog killer Cruella de Vil. Of course this isn’t the first time that the House Of Mouse have brought out an origins story for one of their villains, in fact as far as fantasy films go I quite enjoyed the original Malificent.

The problem for me really was how could they possibly create a film where I would have any sort of empathy for a character that even my Disney Encyclopedia refers to as someone who has ‘murderous intentions towards puppies.’ Well not only did Disney make me feel empathy towards Ms de Vil in Cruella they have made a film I fell in love with and am now saying is one of the best films of 2021.

Directed by Craig Gillespie (I Tonya) Cruella shows a very different side to a character that it seems could have been more intriguing on screen over the years. Here de Vil is depicted as a talented fashion designer who can drift between the talented and mild mannered Estelle (Emma Stone – Easy A) and the revenge-fuelled Cruella depending on what buttons of her’s have been pushed.

The film shows her as a young girl witnessing the death of her mother and then finding her way in life by teaming up with petty thieves Jasper (Joel Fry – Yesterday) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser – Richard Jewell). The three treat each like family and they have a merry existence with small crimes while Estelle does what she can to try and be noticed in the fashion world. Then everything falls together nicely when she is spotted by fashion royalty – The Baroness (Emma Thompson – Love Actually). And that is when the real fun and crime begins.

For me to go into all of the in and outs of the plot would be criminal because part of the magic that I found with this film was going on the journey of twists and turns with Estelle. Every scene is like a Pandora’s box exposing more of the secrets and lies that have surrounded her whole life and the screenplay is written in such a way that you see the emotional strain pushing Estelle closer and closer to becoming Cruella. Yes, to a certain extent some areas of Cruella actually mirror Joker.

The strong point of this film is the ambience of it. There is a strong Gothic English feel that is further enhanced by a look and feel that is normally reserved for a Wes Anderson film. That dark ambience then crosses over into the brash feeling of a Sex Pistols video clip as Cruella comes to life and embraces the alternative fashion of the period alongside her new-found friend Artie (John McCrea – Dracula).

Adding to the wild vibe of 1970s London is an amazing soundtrack that consists of tracks by The Clash, David Bowie right through to Doris Day and everything in-between. The soundtrack is seriously so good that I had added it on Spotify before I even made it back to the car after watching the film.

Bringing everything into place though is the cast. Emma Stone shines in a role where she gets to embrace both good and evil, she is reminiscent of Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, and plays well opposite Emma Thompson’s portrayal of the mean-spirited and cruel The Baroness. Joel Fry and Paul Walter Haueser also steal the scenes they are in while Mark Strong (Shazam!) once again comes to the fore as the film’s tough guy.

I may have gone into Cruella sceptical about the film but I came out of it completely in love. This is an absolute Gothic spectacular that I sincerely hope comes to the stage one day. Tome the film felt like a brilliant cross-between the original Oliver Twist and Joker and the result is one of Disney’s best ever films. I can’t wait to experience it again.

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