Movie Review: CRUELLA Is An Over-The-Top Love Letter to Music and Fashion
Are you into over-the-top, dahling?? CRUELLA is the movie for you! If you’re into fashion, music and makeup, this will be a fun film. CRUELLA is all eye and ear-candy. The set design and costume departments were on point. If you’re looking for a cohesive story with realistic characters, you may be a bit disappointed. Keep reading for an honest, spoiler-free CRUELLA review.
Set in 1970s London amidst the punk rock revolution, CRUELLA follows a homeless young thief named Estella (played by Oscar winner Emma Stone) who is obsessed with the fashion designs of Baroness von Hellman (played by 2-time Oscar winner Emma Thompson). Estella befriends a pair of young thieves, Jasper and Horace, and the three use their wits and Estella’s clever clothing designs to cheat people out of their possessions. One day, Estella’s flair for fashion catches the eye of the Baroness, who is devastatingly chic and terrifyingly haute. Both will do anything to get ahead, and their relationship sets in motion a series of events and revelations that cause Estella to embrace her wicked side as the revenge-bent Cruella de Vil.
CRUELLA bites off a bit more than it can chew in terms of plot. When you start with the birth of your main character, that’s 30+ years to cover!! And at 2 hours and 14 minutes, it’s a long movie that spans different genres as the twisty plot unfolds. In turns a coming-of-age film, a heist movie and a historical fantasy piece with a dash of THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA, CRUELLA certainly takes you on a journey. Baroness von Hellman is very much THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA’s Miranda Priestly (Meryl Streep) to ingenue Andy (Anne Hathaway). There’s even a Nigel (Stanley Tucci) character who looks very similar, played by Mark Strong (Shazam!, Kingsman, 1917).
Even though the plot leaves much to be desired, both Emma’s are acting powerhouses. One scene in particular stands out – Estella is working as a scullery maid in the House of Hellman as her horrible boss reprimands her with long wooden stares in a completely unrealistic way. Then Emma Thompson walks in with all her Baroness von Hellman haughtiness, and it’s like a breath of fresh air. She rules the scene and takes no prisoners. Throughout the movie there are great emotional moments between these two women. It’s a shame they are surrounded by characters that really aren’t given enough screen time to have personalities. The exception being Horace and Jasper. Jasper (Joel Fry, Game of Thrones) is the more down-to-earth friend of Estella, and serves as the audience POV.
Horace, while providing comedic fodder, manages to charm the audience with his bumbling personality. He is played by Paul Walter Hauser (I,Tonya, Cobra Kai). Unfortunately Anita and Roger don’t get enough screen time to really count in this film, though this isn’t really their story anyway. Just wait for 101 Dalmations!
CRUELLA Soundtrack and Fashion
If you love 1960’s and ‘70’s hits, the soundtrack will have you dancing in your seat. Half the budget for CRUELLA must have been spent on music rights, with a great body-rocker every five minutes. “Feeling Good” from Nina Simone, “Whole Lotta Love” by Ike and Tina Turner, “Livin’ Thing (2012 Version) by Electric Light Orchestra are only a few. There’s even a Beatles song – “Come Together” (sung by Ike and Tina Turner) to round out the ‘60s and ‘70s vibe of the movie. The soundtrack imbues the heist and fashion scenes with fun and flare. More details on the soundtracks here.
Similarly the fashion is TO DIE FOR, Dahling!! The sumptuous fabrics and flagrant silhouettes populate most scenes, and I couldn’t help but be drawn in to Emma Thompson’s gorgeous eyes with her en pointe makeup. I *think* there were more costume changes than Queen Amidala in the prequels, though I’d have to count to be sure! And though the outfits were over-the-top, it actually works in the plot’s favor, because the film is all about fashion and breaking the boundaries of fashion as Cruella and the Baroness’ relationship unravels.
Throughout CRUELLA, there are several nods to characters, locations and more from Disney’s original One Hundred and One Dalmations (1961). If you know the original well, it’s fun to find these little Easter eggs sprinkled throughout the film. Here are a few to look for:
- Cruella’s car – a Panther De Ville
- Humans who look like their dogs
- Roger’s office
I won’t spoil any more – you’ll have to find them for yourself!
As we make our way out of the pandemic, you have choices in how to experience CRUELLA. The film is in theaters beginning Friday, May 28; and also available on Disney+ with Premier Access for a one-time additional fee. On August 27, 2021, CRUELLA will become available for streaming on Disney+ at no additional charge.
“Cruella” stars Emma Stone, Emma Thompson, Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser, Emily Beecham, Kirby Howell-Baptiste and Mark Strong. The film is directed by Craig Gillespie, with screenplay by Dana Fox and Tony McNamara, story by Aline Brosh McKenna and Kelly Marcel & Steve Zissis, based upon the novel “The One Hundred and One Dalmatians” by Dodie Smith. “Cruella” is produced by Andrew Gunn, Marc Platt and Kristin Burr, p.g.a., with Emma Stone, Michelle Wright, Jared LeBoff and Glenn Close serving as executive producers.
4 thoughts on “Movie Review: CRUELLA Is An Over-The-Top Love Letter to Music and Fashion”