I can’t help but think of a few things that would have made Cruella stronger as a film, one of them being Disney not shying away from really digging into the darkness as opposed to dimming it down. But even that aside, if Cruella was a man, this film would get a lot more praise in spite of the fact that it isn’t perfect. In which case, this means that yes, prior to watching, I read one too many nonsensical hot takes from men that should’ve stayed in the drafts.
I’m tired, Your Honor. I’m tired of films centering around complex women getting ridiculously intense, unsolicited criticism that similar films centering around male characters would be full of praise and calls for immediate sequels. Again, keep it in the drafts—no one asked you.
Cruella is slow at times and takes a while to gain momentum. The first hour truthfully felt as though it might never end, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is a stunning film about a woman dealing with the gravitas of grief and guilt and coming to her darkness upon realizing that her boss is the very reason she is as shaken as she is. Thematically, I’ll always argue that it’s no excuse, but women are seldom allowed the chance to be angry, and if Cruella was given the chance to be even angrier, the film would’ve been far more intriguing in its storytelling.
But this is Disney, and it’s not going to produce something nihilistic or too dark for a live action. That’s why I’m choosing to focus on the parts of the film that worked so well and that’s every part of the production design. Cruella is visually stunning in every way. The costumes, the setting, the special effects where need be—the film succeeds because the world building holds on to the magic of Disney gorgeously.
And the cast could not have been more perfect. I’ll always be weary of American actors taking on roles that require accents, but Emma Stone is top-notch in the film and holds her own remarkably with the legendary Emma Thompson. Cruella works in spite of its imperfections because Stone as Cruella demands attention and it’s impossible not to give it to her. It’s impossible to look away and it’s impossible not to care about her story. As both Estella and Cruella, Stone demands the audience give her a chance, and it’s easy to do so because with Disney films, we’re almost programed to care. Stone is clearly having a blast all throughout and thus, her energy is reflected onto our screens with remarkable ease.
As one of the most vile of villains, Cruella was always going to be a tough one to adapt because again, Disney wouldn’t take her as far as she’s taken in the animated cartoon because the focus there is on the dalmatians. Here, she is the one we’re meant to understand and look deeper into. She is the one whose story we are meant to know. And in that sense, I understand the need to make it palatable, I just can’t help but wonder what it would have been like.
The twist behind Estella’s real mother isn’t one I was personally expecting, and sometimes Disney and Pixar really get you with the twists. I want to say it’s because I wasn’t paying as close attention as I should have to figure it out, but really my easiest assumption was a tale of two sisters as opposed to a tale of two mothers. So, I’ll give Disney kudos for managing that, and I’ll also give them major props for the riveting soundtrack that in and of itself made the film glorious.
Cruella is fun, gorgeous, and ultimately, a pretty fascinating film about women with goals and aspirations. It’s a film about the lengths people will cross to reach their goals and it’s about the people in their corner who’ll always be there to help even when they aren’t deserving.
In true Disney fashion, it’s a film with a message. Don’t ever stop on people to get to the top, and dogs are the best–if you ever harm them, you’re the worst kind of person.
What are your thoughts on Disney’s Cruella?