Devilishly divine

If “Cruella” does not wow you, no other film will

Annie Symons, Staff Reporter

It is a Disney film like you’ve never seen before, darling.

“Cruella” may result in some skeptics scratching their heads about why the titular character needed to tell her side of the story, but dazzling performances from Emma Stone and Emma Thompson work together to create a wickedly gorgeous picture that viewers never knew they needed.

Estella (Stone), a young girl with naturally two-toned hair and a rebellious streak, suddenly finds herself parentless in the vast city of London. She befriends two boys, Horace and Jasper, and the three of them form an unconventional family. This film cleverly allows Horace and Jasper to become meaningful characters in the story rather than just Cruella’s dim-witted henchmen.

Years later, Estella’s dream is to become a fashion designer. She spends her free time sketching outfits and scrubbing bathrooms at a clothing store. Estella finally receives an opportunity to pursue her desired career when the Baroness (Thompson), one of the most famous names in the London fashion market, discovers a piece of her work.

Once she begins working for her cold-hearted boss, she discovers a life-altering secret—the Baroness played a pivotal part in removing Estella’s mother from her life. A hunger for revenge consumes her, and Stone’s portrayal of this vengeful young woman is nothing short of spectacular.

After assembling a team to do her bidding and taking Cruella as her new name, she begins to embrace her inner devil. Several shocking plot twists keep audiences guessing, and not even the cruelest of folks could guess how this film ends.

Disney is a world-renowned production studio known for their approach to family-friendly filmmaking, but “Cruella” is a dark, twisted tale meant for older viewers. Folks who cherish nostalgic memories of the 1961 animated feature “101 Dalmatians” will appreciate this film more than those who are new to Cruella’s story.

Instead of dwelling on Cruella’s fascination with black-and-white spots, the film depicts the Dalmatians as killer hounds who cater to the Baroness’s every call. The screenwriters take advantage of their creative freedom with this choice, and it’s a brilliant one.

By establishing the dogs as villains, Cruella herself becomes an anti-hero (a main character in a story that does not embody traditional heroic characteristics). This creative approach leads to new character development and allows audiences to see how Cruella could so easily turn Dalmatian puppies into a furry fashion garment perfect for London wintertime. Her traumatic experiences do not define her actions. They explain them.

Stone and Thompson are leading ladies on and off screen, and their performances in this picture do not disappoint. Both women embrace their characters’ wickedness in the finest fashion, and they draw in every ounce of audience attention during the scenes they act in together.

As if the film’s story and acting performances were not already stunning, the costumes are nothing short of complete and utter perfection.

Throughout the film, sweeping shots of extravagant crowds at parties and balls reveal hundreds of pieces created specifically for this movie. Costume designer Jenny Beavan deserves every accolade for her achievements in costume design—Cruella and the Baroness themselves would have been taken back by her work.

Many associate the Cruella de Vil from “101 Dalmatians” with her ghoulish appearance and desire for spotted coats, but this movie is not about Cruella stealing Dalmatian puppies. It’s simply about her and the life events that lead to her obsession with vengeance. The narrative threaded through the film is enticing, exciting, and, of course, evil.

“Cruella” is rated PG-13 for thematic elements and some violence.