Disney loves to explore the origin stories of its characters before weaving a whole cinematic universe around it. MCU is an epic example. With Cruella, they have explored the backstory of the iconic villain Cruella de Vil, who appeared in Walt Disney’s famous animated film, One Hundred and One Dalmatians.
Walt Dinsey’s original animated film was based on a novel of the same name, written by British author, Dodie Smith. In the novel, Cruella kidnaps a family of Dalmatians to extract fur from their body, for her own fur business. But her origin story isn’t about fur. It puts the character in a much more emotional light, exploring the reasons for her changeover.
Set in 1970s London, the story follows a little girl Estella born with unusual black-white hair. Due to her violent behavior in school, her mother Catherine is compelled to move to London. But on the way, she stops at the villa of her former employer to seek help. However, struck with an unusual tragedy, Estella loses her mother. She ends up on the street and is then raised by two kid thieves, Jasper and Horace. Growing up, Estella yearns to become a fashion designer like her late mother, and she finally gets a chance after being employed by a London heiress, Baroness von Hellman. While working with Baroness, Estella discovers striking revelations about her lineage and her own mother.
Through Cruella’s character, screenwriter Dana Fox and Tony McNamara had tried to sketch a grey character. The pursuit, flaws, and meltdowns are underlined fairly, giving the iconic villain a more humane angle. The film is set in 1970 around which rock-pop culture was at its height, therefore justifying the character’s flashy looks. Attending to fine details, the writers have also employed important links to the original novel, which is a smart move.
Emma Stone as the lead actress isn’t anything striking. However, the film in itself didn’t have much performance scope otherwise. The range of emotions of both the character and actor were limited to anger and revenge. A similar range was visible in Emma Thompson’s character (Baroness) that lacked depth and layer. Maybe, the whole focus of the writer centered around their esteemed protagonist. The film remarkably uses the five stages of grief (unfortunately just in dialogues). The other characters, like the antagonist, were flat and unattended.
The film works for a moment and then hinders its own charm. The lack of stakes and unmotivated confused antagonist acts as a flaw. For a children’s film, Cruella could work for you, but if you look at it from a deeper perspective, it’s just a formula film from the Big Studio that fails to create an impact. I think the era of Fairy Tales has come to an end. Hope studios soon realize this. People need more realistic stories that depict life itself, not a “life in a bubble.” In my opinion, the film was worse than Birds of Prey, the origin film of Harley Quinn, that followed a similar origin story and a similar visual character.
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Cruella is a 2021 comedy-drama film based on an iconic Villain, Cruella de Vil from Dodie Smith’s novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians. The film was directed by Craig Gillespie.