Cert – 12, Run-time – 2 hours 12 minutes, Director – Ryan Murphy
A group of struggling Broadway performers (Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Andrew Rannells) team up to better their image by helping a young girl (Jo Ellen Pellman) excluded from her prom because of her sexuality
The movie musical has very much made a full comeback over the last decade or so, however nothing has been quite like The Prom. Based on the Tony nominated musical of the same name this is an energetic, glitter-filled dance mob, spontaneous musical number belting MUUUUUSSSSIIIICAAAALLL! One where, to quote one of the film’s songs, it truly does “give it some zazz”. This is a film about struggling Broadway actors, whether pushed back to the chorus, struggling to get work or simply starring in successive flops the four central figures core problem is that their narcissistic personalities have got in the way of their careers. Therefore they search for causes they can get behind to make it seem like they care, to boost life back into their public personas. After browsing Twitter the quartet discover a story about high school student Emma (Jo Ellen Pellman), who has been excluded from her prom by the PTA because of her sexuality. ‘Outraged’ by this the group travel from Broadway heights and lights to rural Indiana, where the hotels don’t even have spas.
For much of the duration the one joke is the fact that these characters only think of themselves and their believed high-lives – Meryl Streep’s Dee Dee Allen shows off her two Tony awards in the hope of securing a non-existent hotel suite. It wears thin at times but there are still one or two laughs to be found along the way. This single gag even takes up some of the earlier songs in the film, including one called It’s Not About Me. And yet, amongst it all there’s something rather enjoyable about a number of the musical numbers. Overdone, overpowered and overflowing with lights, colour, glitter and dance it’s very much a direct Broadway adaptation – although featuring some added elements and camera movements/ trickery to warrant the film format. For the most part it’s some of the musical numbers where the feeling of ‘this almost feels like a stage recording’ is in play.
It does feel as if not much has been cut out from the original stage productions. At 2 hours and 12 minutes the film does feel somewhat lengthy. Particularly as the songs die down and the plot comes more into play in the second half the run-time begins to show. Other characters, aside from James Corden’s Barry Glickman – (proudly describing himself as “as gay as a bucket of wigs – A bucket of them!” – while Corden does seem miscast, and his labelled ‘gayface’ has come under fire, although having been defended by castmate Andrew Rannells, begin to get more screen-time during this period as Corden appears to act as the ringleader for much of the run-time. And yet, the film tries to keep in frame, as much as possible, the character of Emma; who simply wants to be able to take her girlfriend, Alyssa (Ariana DeBose) – who hasn’t yet come out – to the prom. However, Alyssa’s Mum (Kerry Washington) is the head of the PTA, who said that all dates must be of the opposite sex, coming up with multiple rules simply to prevent Emma from being at the prom.
While the Broadway stars belt out powerful energetic numbers Emma and Alyssa’s songs are much more reigned in. Not quite ballads but gentler personal songs to themselves and each other. Revealing themselves instead of powerfully trying to better their own image for those around them. You feel their connection and it simply boosts the overall traditional musical feel of the film. Not just this, but it also provides good breaks from the heaps of exuberance in all other scenes of the film – which if held throughout could potentially become tiring, especially with the run-time that the film holds. However, for what it does do, despite seeming a bit long, there are some great moments of energy within this full-on Broadway musical. It spreads an infectious smile and you can’t help but go along with it, being amused by the actions of these characters who are so obsessed with themselves that at times the only possible joke is just how out of place they seem in this small town in Indiana. Yet, with that are some good chuckles and laughs and enough to make for an entertaining song-belting prom that eventually gets round to celebrating people recognising each other and coming together.
Powered with energy and a cast that truly can belt out a numbers of songs The Prom isn’t without its more refined moments, saving it from feeling a bit too much during its rather lengthy run-time.