Bold, colourful and joyous, this film adaptation of the Broadway musical has plenty of heart.
2020 is definitely the year in which we needed Ryan Murphy’s film adaptation of The Prom. It is as much about the love for theatres around the globe as it is the story of two teenage girls who want to go to the prom together.
Set in Edgewater Indiana, Emma is being bullied for having coming out as gay and even more so the fact that she wants to bring her girlfriend to the prom. Alyssa in turn has not come out yet and worried about what it will do to her relationship with her mum (who is massively opposed to an all inclusive prom). Throw into the mix four Broadway actors who are looking to save their reputations who take up Emma’s cause and you have a a warm and sincere story.
Written by Bob Martin, Chad Beguelin, Matthew Sklar, the script is extremely uplifting and heartfelt. You can see it through scenes such as when Angie (Nicole Kidman) tries to lift Emma’s spirits after a nasty incident and or when Barry (James Corden) and Dee Dee (Meryl Streep) doing some soul searching in their hotel room. But it also has to be said that there could have been a lot more focus on Emma and Alyssa’s relationship – and particularly more of a balance in telling Alyssa’s story and relationship with her mother.
Yet despite this, it is all brought to life with glitz and glamour by director Ryan Murphy who really knows how to bring a sense of theatricality to it through big musical numbers such as ‘It’s Time to Dance’ and ‘Love Thy Neighbor’ vibrantly choreographed by Casey Nicholaw. On the other side of this, Murphy knows how to handle important issues such as discrimination with great sensitivity – really seen early on in the film with the attitudes of the kids and Mrs Greene ( Kerry Washington), highlighting just how isolated Emma is.
When casting was announced for the film, it is fair to say there was some criticism surrounding it. But now having watched it – there is actually a really lovely chemistry between them all that feels sincere and natural. In particular, Jo Ellen Pellman as Emma offers a clearcut and honest performance that really shines through. She is earnest and understated, making moments such as her performance ‘Unruly Heart’ feel even more poignant. Nicole Kidman was also immensely watchable, offering a warm and well grounded performance that makes you wish we saw more of her character Angie – her performance of ‘Zazz’ is a particular highlight moment of the film.
Elsewhere, Meryl Streep also shines as diva Dee Dee – oozing with confidence and style, all the while delivering some of the best lines in the film with razor sharp timing. There is also great support from Keegan-Michael Key as Principle Tom Hawkins and Andrew Rannells as Trent – both offering really charismatic performances.
Perhaps given the simplicity of the plot, it could use a little bit of editing in terms of length – but given the enjoyable nature of the songs and music it is easy to see why this didn’t happen. It wanted to do justice to the stage production for all those who got to experience it in a theatre.
Overall, it is a warm, vibrant and endearing film that serves a reminder to us all that love will triumph over hate every time and in unexpected ways.
By Emma Clarendon
The Prom is available to watch on Netflix now.