Cruella is a film directed by Craig Gillespie and starring Emma Stone in the title role and Emma Thompson as Baroness Von Hellman. The film is produced by Disney Studios. The origin story of the character is based on the 1961 Disney Studios animated feature 101 Dalmatians, which is based on the 1956 novel of the same name by Dodie Smith.
Thanks to Disney France, we were able to discover this film in preview on June 11th. This film was initially released in the United States on 28 May in cinemas and on Disney Plus in First Access. It runs for 2 hours and 14 minutes and will be released on June 23, 2021 exclusively in France.
London, 1970s, in the midst of the punk rock movement. A talented con artist, Estella is determined to make a name for herself in the fashion world. She befriends two young scoundrels who appreciate her hustling skills and leads a life of crime on the streets of London with them. One day, her creations are noticed by the Baroness von Hellman, a terribly chic and horribly snobbish fashion icon. But their relationship triggers a series of revelations that lead Estella to let her darker side take over, resulting in the ruthless Cruella, a brilliant young woman with a thirst for fashion and revenge…
Cruella, a good origin story
Unlike a film like Maleficent released in 2014, the film Cruella will not make its main character a redeeming figure. Indeed, Cruella has a goal and she will do everything to achieve it. Her story is a success story, revenge will allow her to reveal herself and become the Cruella we expected.
Although fashion is indeed an important part of the plot, it is not the main thread. Indeed Cruella is a story of revenge. As the film progresses, she will discover elements of her past that will drive her to become the vengeful fashion designer that she is.
The important elements of the plot are mainly introduced at the beginning of the film during her childhood, such as her taste for fashion, or her dark side that she will try to hide as best she can. This dichotomy between the dark side of her and the side her mother wanted her to be is one of the best ideas in the film. We learn to appreciate this Cruella who forces herself to be the one her mother wanted her to be, with this dark part still hanging in the air, so that she can then let go completely; we love to see her become this Cruella character.
This film allows us to discover both how she became this famous fashion designer and how she became the person we know.
Moreover, we can appreciate the various references made to the cartoon, notably with the character of Anita who is a school friend, a journalist in the film and who will help him to be noticed by the press. We can also note the presence of a character named Roger who is the name of Pongo’s dog in the cartoon.
Finally, the film replays a scene from the well-known animated classic, rekindling the nostalgia of the child in us all. Even if the scene is more of a reference than a true reproduction, it manages to bring a smile to our faces.
Let’s start naturally by talking about the main character. Emma Stone as Cruella is more than convincing. She embodies to perfection this iconic villain of the Disney universe while remaining faithful to the aesthetics of the film. It is easy to recognize the character in her gestures and posture. Emma Stone’s performance in this film is very different from that of Glenn Close in the 1996 film.
Indeed she is calmer and more composed in this film. The angry outbursts where Cruella screams at everyone are absent. This change can simply be justified because in this film we discover a Cruella who is not yet a great fashion designer. She is a strong, self-confident, intelligent woman full of ambition and nothing can stop her. In some aspects of her personality she could be compared to the character of Harley Quinn played by Margot Robbie. She is a character with a painful past that will follow her throughout the film.
The antagonist of this film is Baroness Von Hellman played by Emma Thompson. She is a famous fashion designer who easily overwhelms all her competitors. An accomplished woman, she is full of herself and treats her staff badly. But she sees Cruella as a talented designer and takes her into her studio, allowing our heroine to assert herself and fully embrace her destiny. The Baroness is a very snobbish character who despises others.
Jasper and Horace as never seen before
The other two characters I would like to focus on are Horace and Jasper who in this film are much more developed than in the cartoon. Here the protagonists have complex personalities and are no longer just Cruella’s sidekicks but her friends. They are even at the origin of her entry into the world of fashion.
In this film, we discover how Cruella met them and why they subsequently do her dirty work. A deep friendship binds the trio throughout the film. We also see how the trio transforms during Cruella’s rise in popularity. Horace and Jasper in this film are touching and are one of the great strengths of this film.
The atmosphere of Cruella
To begin with, let’s talk about the music. I must say that the music is more than present in this film. Regarding the soundtrack composed by Nicholas Britell, it serves the story well. But it doesn’t have a major piece that one would remember when leaving the theatre.
On the other hand, the playlist of different punk rock songs is noteworthy. This playlist helps us to immerse ourselves in the film so much (this genre appeared at the time of the film). The very choice of songs immerses us in the action and even (dare we say it) in the state of mind of the character. The songs are classics of the genre with everything from Nina Simone’s Feeling Good to Queen’s Stone Cold Crazy. However, I found the songs to be too many, especially at the beginning of the film.
At times they were perhaps too much in sequence, but this did not prevent me from enjoying the film and will not bother, or even please, some people. It is true however that the songs totally fit the film. They help us to get attached to Cruella by playing on the nostalgia of the songs we know for the most part.
Concerning the image, the film is beautiful. We are faced with a film whose colorimetry is not saturated, which totally corresponds to the spirit of the character. No hot colours in abundance, no bright colours, Cruella has very realistic colour ranges. The animals, created by special effects, are more than realistic. They participate fully in the dynamism of the film.
Cruella is a film that I completely recommend. It will make you have a good time and you will come out happy to finally see a Disney film in the cinema. True to the image of the character, it adds to the mythology of the character. Don’t be afraid to plunge into the London of the 70s to experience a film that is a cross between The Devil Wears Prada and The Joker. But beware, even if it is not particularly scary, it is still a darker film than what the studio usually offers (recommended for children aged 10 and over).