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Cruella (2021) Film Review | Disney for grown-ups

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Today I’m going to be looking at Cruella directed by Craig Gillespie. I thought that this film would be a disappointment much like the rest of Disney’s lacklustre live-action adaptations of their animated films. However i gave it a chance and i am happy i did. So hold your Dalmatian and hear me out.

Cruella (2021) Film Review And My Opinion

Cruella tells the story of how a young Estella miller becomes Cruella devil. The infamous dog napping villain first introduced in the 1956 novel the 101 Dalmatians. Later adapted into an animated film in 1961 by Disney and then a live action film in 1996 starring Glenn close as a Cruella.

In this origin story we get to see a glimpse of Estella as a child. Before moving on to seeing her as a young adult in 1970s London as a budding fashion designer.

She lands a job working for the name in high fashion. The baroness but discovers something about her employer that sparks a rivalry between them. Cue the mischief and mayhem.

The best way to describe this film. I think is the devil wears Prada but make it punk. Cruella shares a lot with the devil. West Prada in terms of the relationship and rivalry between master and student within the context of high fashion.

Furthermore the two student characters i.e. Estella and Anne Hathaway’s character Andy both go through a transformation into what their friends would describe as a worse version of themselves.

Cruella then transports this story to the 1970s and this gives it a whole new layer. The punk layer punk as a movement has had a lasting influence on music, fashion and culture.

In general since its birth in the 1970s. At that time it came to represent. The attitude of the unhappy youth who rebelled against the societal norms of the old. Decided to be unapologetically and loudly themselves. In the first half of the film Estella suppresses her true nature though engaging in some thievery.

In order to survive for the most part she follows the rules especially when she gets a job at a high fashion department store. This doesn’t last long. As the film develops Estella comes to allow more of her punk side to come through before finally accepting herself fully as Cruella.

I didn’t expect Disney to be so forward thinking or profound with their exploration of this character. So many of their animations have been adapted without updating their stories to remove harmful old-fashioned ways of thinking. That isn’t even a question here both Cruella and the baroness achieve their goals without being given them on a silver platter nor are their goals related to falling in love or finding a husband.

They aren’t quite role models. This is one of the reasons that i don’t consider this film to be a kid’s film. It isn’t out to teach children how to be good. The morality of the characters is questionable at best. There is an underlying dark tone to the film. It feels at times quite Tim burton-Esque with the mansion on the cliff.

Cruella’s deathly white makeup not to mention, the despicable acts that some of the characters allude to having committed in the past. This is an adult story about adult problems. It’s about Cruella going through that difficult period in life where we must shed our comfortable childhood homogeny and become individuals.

Seeking to find an answer to the question of what to do with our lives. This transition when shown through the eyes of Cruella. When set in the 1970s has been allowed and developed to have this all-round extravagance from the acting to the music, to the camera, and the editing, and oh my god the costumes.

On the surface these characters can’t be played any other way but over the top. However because of the writing they came off unexpectedly genuine. Whenever a scene would feel like it’s verging into fantastical monotony or stereotype. Something would happen or a character would say a line that breaks the pattern.

For example when one of my favorite side characters arty gets invited by Cruella to a night of fabulousness mayhem and possible death he replies with “check, check not sure about the death though” which i think is a brilliant response.

I suppose one way in which these characters could be role models is in their confidence. Each one of them is so captivating because they have a talent that they pursue vigorously. Be it fashion design photography or thieving with the help of a tiny one-eyed dog. Confidence in being yourself is also an important message.

It is a feature of both punk and pride. A connection that is made primarily via the character of arty. Although both movements aren’t exactly the same. They share a lot of the same values and goals, both inward and outward.

This makes the film more meaningful for a contemporary audience. Especially given its release just in time for pride month. Cruella is definitely a film where each technical aspect has been tailored to tell the story. Whenever Cruella’s mayhem is in full swing the editing becomes quite fast-paced. The cinematography is playful enough to make it work.

There’s moments where the actors are almost breaking the fourth wall. Incredibly close looking into the camera. This also fits the punk background. It relates to the idea of breaking away from the previous generations and being bolder and brasher than before.

The soundtrack transports you to the 70s with tracks from the likes of the rolling stones. Super tramp and the clash energizing the action with an anarchic vibe. This meant that every time these tracks came on it felt like i was watching a very well-funded music video.

This made the experience even more fun. Those costumes it is difficult to describe just how impressive they are, of course assisted by the hair and makeup costume designer, Jenny Bevin previously won an Oscar for her work on mad max fury road.

Though these two films seem completely separate in terms of style there’s a similar intricacy in detail and indulgence with the costume design. That is uniquely suited to each of their stories the one thing that bothered me was the CGI work done.

Specifically on the dogs. I understand the necessity of CGI in order to make a dog do something that they could not possibly be trained to do. However i noticed that it was being used quite casually in some moments such as to get a dog to turn its head during a conversation scene. This brought me out of the action for a little while.

Whilst on the topic of dogs if you are looking forward to seeing a whole bunch of Dalmatians then you will be sorely disappointed as there are really only three in Cruella. However this is somewhat remedied by the addition of two adorable street dogs called wink and buddy, who definitely win the award for cutest criminals like with most films.

Everyone’s experience of Cruella will vary and though. I have given a predominantly positive review of it. I do appreciate that this style of filmmaking won’t appeal to everyone. Certainly my enjoyment of it was aided by my love of extravagance on screen such as in films by Baslerman or Luke Besson.

I think if you like either of those directors you will probably enjoy Cruella as the tone feels very similar. Overall Cruella is a remarkably enjoyable origin story for an iconic villain with a plot that has been perfectly moulded around the 1970s setting.

The characters are brash the pace energetic and the style bold and brilliantly entertaining.

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