Cert – 12, Run-time – 2 hours 14 minutes, Director – Craig Gillespie
A hopeful fashion designer (Emma Stone) leaves a life of stealing on the streets of London to work for icon of the fashion world The Baroness (Emma Thompson)
Cruella De Vil is undeniably one of Disney’s most recognisable villains, we surely all aware of ‘her’ theme song. Glenn Close famously brought a celebrated turn to the hater of fur in the mis-90’s and early 2000’s, however in this 70’s set origin we see Emma Stone step into the shoes of Estella. After seeing her mother die, Estella (Tipper Seifert-Cleveland on young Estella duty) runs away, blaming herself, and finds a home on the streets of London with fellow orphans Jasper (Ziggy Gardner) and Horace (Joseph MacDonald). The group grow up stealing and picking pockets, always looking for an angle to help get by, even when well grown up.
However, it takes a while to meet the grown-up versions of these characters. There’s certainly a lot of exposition to get through beforehand, and rather clunky exposition at that. A number of details seem rather forced, even when clearly groan-inducingly obvious, especially when it comes to certain origin elements for the titular figure. Generally the first act feels very clunky and more like a number of familiar ideas thrown together with basic dialogue thrown into the mixture too. It’s this first act that adds what feels like the most length onto what is by the end a slightly overlong film. Although, as we finally meet the 1970’s versions of the three characters things begin to somewhat pick up. We meet Emma Stone’s aspiring fashion designer, still living with her two friends (now played by Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser respectively – the latter presenting a rather dodgy London accent) in a drab upper floor of a rundown, partly destroyed, building.
But, things are looking up, as she finds herself working up the ladder to her dreams. Starting off with a dead-end job in a lavish department store Estella soon finds her way to company with The Baroness (Emma Thompson) – one of the most famous and celebrated figures in the fashion industry. The Baroness is a stony-faced figure, little can please her. Her commands very often met in a highly unsatisfactory manner, however Estella shows some form of hope. Things are going well for the two, until Estella sees her employer wearing a necklace that belonged to her mother. Gradually as answers are looked for we see the birth of the monochrome haired face of evil, “born brilliant, bad and a little bit mad”.
Estella ditches her dyed red hair and unleashes black and white fury – with the help of her two henchmen. However, this fury comes in an explosion of colours. The costumes in this film are fantastic, and truly stand out amongst its merits, it’s highly likely that this could, rightfully, win the Costume Design Oscar next year. A far step away from the costumes of Mad Max: Fury Road, for which she also won an Oscar, costume designer Jenny Beavan demonstrates a fabulous array of character defining statements. A fabulous array of dresses, tuxes, jackets and masks that when paired with some of the hair and make-up and production design make for a rather visually intriguing and investing film, certainly drawing away from the state of some of the CGI dogs and water. Truly getting across the favourite combination of “gorgeous and vicious” that the central character devilishly smirks with.
Stone and Thompson are clearly having a great time playing their roles. It comes across in their characters and makes for two enjoyable performances and central figures to engage with over the course of the film, particularly when the run-time begins to be felt towards the end. The feeling is certainly present that this could be cut down to be a more rounded two hours at least. Even amongst the highly on-the-nose musical choices the performances carry through and so does the overall story. There’s an engaging enough narrative, led by its various characters, to make for an enjoyable piece. One that seems to know its target market. Much like with Mulan, Disney appear to be further branching out with the audiences and content of their live-action “reimaginings”. In the case of Cruella they appear to be pitching towards a teen/ young adult market, and the general nature of the film will likely capture that audience and work for them rather well. As for other audience members outside of this demographic there’s still plenty to enjoy about the flare and performances of the film – particularly Stone and Thompson – to make it a worthwhile, enjoyable and certainly stylish watch.
Stone and Thompson bring to life their two feuding characters and help lift Cruella from its clunky first act into an eventually enjoyable narrative. While some origin elements might seem too in-your-face the fantastic costumes have a similar, but much more wanted, effect.