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Canberra
Sunday, June 20, 2021

Now showing: Cruella (PG)

Luke McWilliams gives his review of the 2021 film, Cruella, starring Emma Stone and Emma Thompson.

In 1970s London, Estella Miller (Emma Stone) recounts her early years as a child. Although creative with a talent for fashion, young Estella (Tipper Seifert-Cleveland) has a cruel streak, which leads to her mother Catherine (Emily Beecham) warning her not to be a ‘Cruella’. Pulling her out of school due to her rebellious nature, Catherine takes Estella to the manor of an old, wealthy acquaintance for financial assistance before heading to London, where tragedy strikes.

Prequels of cinema’s classic villains are a bit of a wet blanket. Darth Vader was reduced to a whining teen and Maleficent turned out to be simply misunderstood. Cruella de Vil was first introduced to cinematic audiences in 1961, hell-bent on skinning one hundred and one dalmatian puppies to wear them as a coat. Why would anyone want to empathise with such a person?

The movie is at its best when Estella adopts the Cruella persona to go head-to-head with the Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson), the narcissistic head of a fashion house. In full diva style, Cruella shows up the Baroness with loud-and-proud designs straight from ‘70s London punk. The movie, however, fumbles the psychological and cinematic metamorphosis of our lead.

Verdict: Although stylish with flashes of fun, Cruella is an overlong, muddled origin that relies heavily on its soundtrack and editing instead of its characters. A stylised look and heightened reality and tone a la Tim Burton would also have kicked it up a notch! 2.5 stars.

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