Home Cruella (Subtitled)

Cruella (Subtitled) (12A)

Cast: Emma Thompson, Emily Beecham, Mark Strong, Emma Stone, Paul Walter Hauser, Joel Fry
Genre: Comedy
Author(s): Dana Fox, Tony McNamara
Director: Craig Gillespie
Release Date: 28/05/2021
Running Time: 134mins
Country: US
Year: 2021

Young grifter Estella is determined to make her name in the world of fashion during the punk rock revolution in 1970s London. She befriends thieves Jasper and Horace and the enterprising trio survives on the streets of the capital thanks to wit and guile. Estella's sartorial elegance catches the eye of ferociously haute fashion doyenne Baroness von Hellman. The relationship between the two women gives birth to Estella's raucous alter ego, Cruella.


LondonNet Film Review
Cruella (12A)

In lyrics composed by Mel Leven for the 1961 Disney animation One Hundred And One Dalmatians, Cruella de Vil is described as an inhuman beast and “a spider waiting for the kill”. Director Craig Gillespie’s couture-crazy caper gives birth to a younger and warmer incarnation of the fur-obsessed villainess from Dodie Smith’s 1956 children’s novel, rooting the character’s misery in an ill-fated encounter with three spotty dogs at a lavish soiree. The punk rock revolution of 1970s London is a vivid backdrop to the skulduggery and a deep well of inspiration for production designer Fiona Crombie and costume designer Jenny Beavan, who unleash a whirligig of bold colours and patterns…

Cruella is a heaving banquet for the eyes, laden with show-stopping looks for lead actresses Emma Stone and Dame Emma Thompson as competing talents in the cutthroat world of fashion. Co-writers Dana Fox and Tony McNamara serve up a slightly less bountiful feast, which honours Dodie Smith’s source material and warmly embraces representation, including an unapologetically self-expressive character played by John McCrea, Olivier Award-nominated star of stage musical Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. Voiceover narration from the eponymous troublemaker strikes an irreverent tone which leeches into every frame and harks back to the script’s most memorable line: “Normal is the cruellest insult of them all.”

Haunted by the death of her mother (Emily Beecham), resourceful orphan Estella (Stone) thrives on the streets of London by befriending thieves Jasper (Joel Fry) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser), whose rooftop hideout boasts spectacular views of the capital. The larcenous trio pulls off small-scale heists in disguises designed and sewn by Estella. Her sartorial gift catches the eye of Baroness von Hellman (Thompson), ferociously haute creative director of a revered fashion label.

She hires Estella as an assistant and shamelessly steals the ingenue’s ideas for a spring collection. Tension between the women kindles full-blown conflict and Estella unmuzzles her vengeful alter ego, Cruella, assisted by society columnist Anita Darling (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) and vintage fashion devotee Artie (McCrea). “She has made it me or her,” snarls the baroness, “and I choose me!”

Cruella is cut to the template of a comic book origin story with tragedy as a catalyst for rebirth, dual identities and a descent into madness and rabble-rousing rebellion that draws comparisons with Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker. Stone does not fully embrace the darkness within the constraints of a 12A certificate family film, but she has fun nudging her anarchist towards the edge while Thompson gleefully tramples everyone who gets in her adulation-hungry doyenne’s path. Verbal warfare between the two women, laced with wit and bile, recalls scriptwriter McNamara’s Oscar-nominated work on The Favourite. Director Gillespie could trim his design closer to two hours but his minxy title character does not exercise restraint so he follows her lead.

– Jo Planter


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