June 4, 2021
Cruella and the DeVil-ish Pandemic Movie Experience
Cruella (2021)Source: IMDb
As I nestled into my leather seat at the new dine-in theater in Philadelphia, I began accepting my fate: “Hey, so it cost you $50 to see a movie by yourself,” I bargained in my head as a sipped my soda and consumed 30 minutes of ads. “At least you can name your article, ‘I Paid $50 to See a Movie in a Pandemic so You Don’t Have To.‘”
But within minutes of the introduction to “Cruella,” my regrets melted like butter on movie theater popcorn (yes, I’m a lactose-intolerant vegan — movie theater popcorn and Werther’s caramels are my vices, so sue me).
“Cruella” was worth every single penny. The storyline was as intricately woven as the fashion throughout the film, the acting was absolutely incredible, the cinematography was great, and don’t even get me STARTED on that soundtrack.
Yet, the true cherry on top wasn’t necessarily a product of the film itself.
It was the shared experience of seeing this movie for the first time, opening weekend, in a dark room full of strangers. We laughed together, we gasped together, we were teary-eyed together. It was a novelty I didn’t realize how much I had missed until that very moment.
Cruella (2021) trailerSource: Disney’s Cruella | Official Trailer | Walt Disney Studios
The movie immediately pulls you in with a jaw-dropping, somewhat shocking, introduction. From her very birth, Cruella is the rowdy, rambunctious child who refuses to put up with anyone else’s BS.
The writing is immediately suspenseful and playfully cheeky, which progressively gets more intense as the film goes on.
For a movie with some very dark, serious aspects (at least for a Disney film), all of the jokes are incredibly well-timed and effectively lift the audience’s spirits when needed. The foreshadowing throughout “Cruella” is also incredibly subtle — you wouldn’t necessarily realize it’s foreshadowing until you watch the movie for a second time around — which makes it so satisfying to watch the story unfold.
The directing, cinematography, and fashion were elegantly executed, and the music couldn’t have been more fitting. Featuring tracks by Supertramp, the Bee Gees, The Rolling Stones, The Zombies, Nancy Sinatra, Queen, Doris Day, and Black Sabbath, the music both helped convey the story and amplify the film’s aesthetic.
Everyone was cast perfectly for their roles, as well. Tipper Seifert-Cleveland, who played young Cruella, put on a remarkable performance. Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser, Mark Strong, and Kirby Howell-Baptiste — who played Jasper, Horace, John the Valet, and Anita, respectively — all were excellent, as well.
Even Jamie Demetriou, who plays Gerald in Liberty Shop, is hilarious. His mannerisms and facial expressions pull together the despicable boss that he plays.
But by far, Emma Stone and Emma Thompson (Cruella and The Baroness) take the cake. Especially Emma Stone. She quite literally becomes Cruella, as if she is her own alter ego. The evil smirk and little glint in her eyes conjure up the essence of Cruella in a way no one else could’ve pulled off. And Emma Thompson plays SUCH a horrific person, I don’t know how she kept a straight face while delivering some of her lines. But she sure did.
Overall, everyone involved in the making of “Cruella,” from the writers and the director, to the costume designers and actors, brought the film to life. It truly feels like it was a group effort — and a very well-coordinated one at that.
Bug’s Two Cents
Warning: Minor Spoilers Ahead
5 out of 5 stars
I should probably preface this with the fact that it’s been a hot minute since I last saw “101 Dalmatians…” A hot minute that’s just a few years shy of 20-years, at that. So I’m judging “Cruella” as a stand-alone film — because it does stand on its own excellently.
While aspects of the film do provide backstory for the iconic Cruella de Vill of “101 Dalmatians,” “Cruella” on its own has some of the best writing and direction I’ve seen in a very, very long time. The fashion and acting surely didn’t disappoint, either.
And anyone who knows me knows I am a SUCKER for soft, classic, psychedelic rock. So you can imagine how my heart glowed with joy song after song.
Like everyone else in the theater with me, I was truly taken aback as the film began with Cruella’s literal birth. And Stone’s narration over that bit, in which she says, “Oh, we’re starting there?” evoked a roar of laughter from the audience.
Hands down, my absolute favorite scene in the film is Stone’s first debut as Cruella. The way she lights her cloak covering on fire to reveal that stunning, cherry-red dress is iconic. And my favorite song on the soundtrack, “It’s A Living Thing” by Electric Light Orchestra comes on just a few minutes after that at the perfect moment.
But the ending? OOOOOF, was that a real kick to the shins for The Baroness — and a satisfying kick, at that!
All-in-all, I loved the film. Maybe five out of five stars is being a bit generous, but I felt like I got my money’s worth… Well, sort of. I mean, “Cruella” was fantastic, but $50 for one adult ticket, a small popcorn, and a regular-sized diet soda is steep. I get it, it’s a pandemic, support your local theaters, but I wasn’t expecting it to cost $50.
Though I will say I did feel quite safe in the theater. When selecting my seat, half of them were closed off to uphold social distancing, which I truly appreciated.
It was also one of the cleanest movie theaters I’ve ever been in, especially for one in the heart of Center City (which gets a lot of foot traffic); the theater smelled like cleaning products when I went in and the seats were practically shining. It was clear the staff was deep cleaning the theater between each film. The ventilation was also good, and true to form, the theater was nice and chilly.
Needless to say, I’m very grateful to have gotten the chance to see “Cruella” in theaters, especially since I had done it on a bit of a whim. Hands down, I recommend “Cruella” to anyone who’s still deciding whether or not they should see it.
And if you’d rather wait for a more budget-friendly way to see the film, it will be available to all Disney+ subscribers on Aug. 27 for no additional cost.
“Cruella” is currently available with Premier Access on Disney+ for $29.99, but you are allowed to stream it as many times as you’d like after paying the fee. So if you watch it every day for a month, it only costs you $1 per day to watch “Cruella” at home. If you watch it with at least one other person, you’ve already saved money (my ticket by itself was $20, so if you went to the theater with a friend or a partner, it’d cost you $40).
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