This a delightfully edgy retelling of Cruella’s story – filled with sophisticated characterisations and gorgeous costumes that makes it one of Disney’s best live action films that makes the villain the central character.
Set in 1970’s London, this is a film that feels like as much of a love letter to the fashion industry as well as giving Cruella De Vil a believable and well grounded backstory that has plenty of twists and turns along the way.
The audience first meets Cruella under her real name Estella – a rebellious and independently spirited girl who was bullied at school and seemingly couldn’t ‘fit in’ with those her own age. Soon though she finds herself in London and working as a thief but aspiring to be a fashion designer. But she ends up as an apprentice at (and eventually sabotages) a couture fashion house headed by the cool and calculating The Baroness – learning more than she could ever expected with plenty of twists along the way.
Directed by Craig Gillespie, every scene has been sophisticatedly created drawing the audience effectively into the world of fashion and feels very grown up which could make it difficult for younger audiences to pay attention to – particularly given its two hour running time. But for those who are older it is a real treat, with its punk stylishness and cool soundtrack that brings the era to life as well as giving the story extra punch and spirit – particularly during the scenes in which Cruella, Jasper and Horace are on a ‘job’.
But it has to be said that the costumes are certainly a real strong point of the film. Designed by Jenny Beavan, the glamour and style of each costume designed really reflects each character well – in particular seeing the way in which Estella changes costume with each heist that she goes on is a real treat for those who are intrigued by fashion.
The story itself is engaging and well grounded, offering a way for audiences to see Cruella in a different light and the trauma that she went through but it also feels like a celebration of independence and making you own way in the world no matter what life throws at you. We shouldn’t celebrate some of her actions but we can understand why she felt that she had to. Perhaps the script could have been tighter and a little more focused in places but it does have a nice energy and pace about it.
Performance wise, this is very much Emma Stone’s film. As Estella/Cruella, she offers a calculating and mischievous performance that makes it difficult to take your eyes off her – as seen through some of her entrances to The Baroness’s parties – her quiet confidence makes her compelling to watch. But she is equally well matched by Emma Thompson as The Baroness whose icy cold attitude makes her an ideal villain. Her understated cruelty and way in which she delivers her lines in a quiet manner certainly makes an impact. There is also great support from Joel Fry as the likeable and thoughtful Jasper, John McCrea as the stylish Artie, and Paul Walter Hauser as the dim but loyal Horace.
Overall, Cruella is an edgy and fun caper with dark undertones that marks a new direction for Disney live action films.
By Emma Clarendon
Cruella is available to watch in cinemas or for an additional cost on Disney Plus.