As a young child, Ella (Tipper Seifert-Cleveland) was a two-toned hair-coloured rebel who was born to give authority figures a hard time. Her mother, Catherine (Emily Beecham), encourages Ella to fight the urge to call herself Cruella and blend in with society as much as possible.
When tragedy strikes, Ella is left on the streets to grow up as a professional pickpocket who desperately wants to be a fashion designer. As an adult, when Ella (Emma Stone) gets a chance encounter with wealthy fashion designer The Baroness (Emma Thompson), she learns more about her past and her talents than she ever intended to.
Is Cruella the future of Disney villain origin stories? I certainly hope not. It’s easy to tell where Disney is trying to go here. They want to produce grittier content that isn’t necessarily for small children. You don’t have to suck the colour out of everything or add a two-hour runtime to do that, but it’s what Cruella is guilty of.
Emma Stone dials the acting up to 11 to make sure she’s believable Cruella De Vil. Her British accent is sometimes distracting, but overall the actress is fun to watch. However, the script by Dana Fox and Tony McNamara is the problem.
Cruella is so unfocused. The film ushers the audience from one plot point to the next to get to the big reveal without giving us anything to latch on to. Imagine if the narrative followed one train of thought, then maybe the film wouldn’t be over two hours long. Cruella and the Baroness are the only characters that see any development, and the rest are forgettable props that fade into the background.
Should I feel sorry for Cruella De Vil? What’s the point of garnering sympathy when we know how she turns out later as a sociopathic, animal abusing socialite. Disney wants to give us anti-villains, people we can root for despite how horrible they are. It makes me think they forget why fans like some of these villains in the first place. We love them because we hate them — they don’t need sympathy. I don’t need her reasoning on why she hates Dalmatians! The template is quickly becoming tiresome. Not just from Disney, but the villain origin in general. I’m over it.
What I did like about Cruella is the costume design by Jenny Beavan, the production design by Fiona Crombie, and the work of the makeup/art design departments. Emma Stone wears Beavan’s Haute punk costumes with flair and pizazz. The scene where Cruella arrives at one of the Baroness’ parties with ‘the future’ spray-painted on her face is a stroke of pure genius.
And while the sets are dimly lit, they are gorgeously designed to capture the seedy dankness of 1960s London. The cars, buildings, the fashion — no detail is spared in ensuring maximum authenticity is achieved. It all meshes together so well, it all looks like an exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of art.
Thing is, films need more than pretty costumes to be good, they need a good story — and that’s the main ingredient missing from Cruella.