Disney has reinvigorated itself over the last decade or so with all of their sub-companies such as Marvel, LucasFilm, and Pixar, but it has been their live-action remakes or reimaginings of their classic animated films that have helped them stay relevant in the ever-changing film landscape. Sure, their animated stuff like Frozen, Moana, Zootopia, and Wreck-It Ralph have kept them afloat as a studio, but their live-action stuff has been the backbone of this company for decades. Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, Mulan, and Maleficent have been adapted from some of the company’s most popular IPs. Where does Cruella rank amongst them?
Cruella doesn’t start out as Cruella De Vil, she starts out as Estella (Emma Stone), a young rambunctious teen. When she witnesses a family tragedy, she is thrust out on her own to survive on the streets of London. She befriends two thieves Horace (Paul Walter Howser) and Jasper (Joel Fry). The trio becomes quick friends, but Estella has dreams of becoming a fashion designer. When she gets involved with a fashion legend, Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson), it brings out a whole new lease on life. Her friendship with Horace and Jasper doesn’t seem as important anymore. A twist in the story makes Estella turn into rowdy revenge-seeking Cruella.
Craig Gillespie is coming off of the Oscar-nominated film I, Tonya which was a starring role for Margot Robbie. In Cruella, he takes another Oscar winner, Emma Stone, and gives her a role she can sink her teeth into. The dual roles of Estella and Cruella were a great contrast to each other. As Estella, she was a little mischievous and did some jobs with her two friends. As Cruella, she is allowed to spread her wings and become the character she was meant to be. Her vindictive streak almost costs her in the end. With a little help from Horace, Jasper, and a few others, she’s able to become who she was meant to be the entire time. Stone devours this dual role fantastically.
This film had an aesthetic all its own. There isn’t any other film that looks or feels like this one. The darkness and dirtiness that the film shows play right into the story and character aspects. The cinematography is brilliantly done. The dark reds and greys fit the film perfectly. This whole punk rock feel to the film was brilliantly executed by everyone involved. The period of the ’70s was a great setting for the film. It created an atmosphere of dark and dank England which was great for this film. This helped Stone and company shine in their respective roles. The set production was amazing as well.
This film is set in the fashion world of the ’70s as well, so the clothes and costumes have to be on point. Jenny Beaven channeled the punk rock era perfectly with her costumes. She created some amazing clothes for Stone and others, but when Cruella came, she had some amazing dresses. Beaven is a sure thing to get nominated for an Academy Award for costume design. They were amazing in this film.
Also, due to the era of the ’70s, there had to be music that matched the period. The soundtrack full of iconic songs of the ’60s and ’70s was placed throughout the film. A song from Florence and the Machine was a great theme for Cruella. The songs were brooding and dark to fit the feel of this film. They embraced all the aspects that Gillespie and crew were going for. A soundtrack has to match the feel of the film and in this case, it does perfectly.
Cruella has so much going for it, from its amazing acting by everyone in the cast, especially Stone and Thompson, to the brilliant set production, costumes, and music. Gillespie captured the feel and aesthetic of the film perfectly. The setting in punk rock era London was a brilliant move on his part. This film brought me back to a period I had forgotten about. And it was great to experience it again through the guise of a Disney live-action prequel. This is one of the best Disney live-action films. It’s a fantastic reimagining of the classic Disney character of Cruella.
Dan Skip Allen
Founder/EIC disappointment media