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Cruella film review

Updated: May 29, 2021


Directed by: #CraigGillespie

Film review by: Brian Penn

Cruella (2021)

Such is the nature of today’s film industry we appear to be tripping over sub-genres with increasing regularity. The latest addition is the backstory spin-off; or in the case of Cruella, an origin piece featuring a character made famous by the Walt Disney classic 101 Dalmatians. Word around the campfire has questioned the need for a film like this. For example, is it necessary to know the back story of a baddie, we only need to know they are bad? It’s a fair point, but this entertaining romp lays to rest any lingering doubts that may exist.

The story sparks into life with Estella (Tipper Seifert-Cleveland) as a 12-year old ridden with attitude. Complete with two tone hair she has a distinct St Trinian’s vibe going on and soon makes enemies at school. Mother Catherine (Emily Beecham) withdraws Estella before the headmaster can expel her.

Mother and daughter head to London in search of a new life. However, disaster strikes and Estella is left to fend for herself. She meets Jasper (Joel Fry) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser) who befriend her and become kindred spirits. The trio grow up as grifters in the moneyed environs of Central London. After Estella gets a job at Liberty’s she crosses swords with Baroness Von Hellman (Emma Thompson), the high priestess of fashion design. Estella is determined to topple the Baroness but she might just need the assistance of her alter-ego?

It’s a brilliantly designed and executed film evoking the spirit of London in the 60s and 70s. Regent Street and Tower Bridge is lit to perfection with highly authentic detail. From the blue Rover police cars to Golden Wonder crisps it captures the period with a sureness of touch. A superb soundtrack also pins down the narrative with some top notch rock, rhythm and blues, and is a lesson in how to properly place a song in the piece. The reason for Cruella’s hatred of Dalmatians is well documented, but doesn’t actually matter as much as it should. The film works mainly as a standalone piece, and has a tenuous connection with the original film. Emma Stone has an absolute ball in the title role; a small face with hugely expressive eyes are irresistible. They pull the viewer in with a simple promise, ‘I’m going to cause total mayhem and you’re going to enjoy it!’ Similarly Emma Thompson is on top form with some brilliantly sharp asides to anyone who crosses her.

I’m sure no dogs were harmed during the making of this film; but do wonder how close it might sail to accusations of animal cruelty even if they only hint at it. The door hasn’t just been left open for a sequel; they’ve ripped it off altogether. I remain dubious of sequels, but if this level of quality can be maintained there will be no complaints from me.


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