Updated: Jun 2, 2021
Director: Craig Gillespie
For so many years, women in films were either ‘worthy’ love interests or femme fatales, embodying that ‘damned whore or God’s police’ cliché so deftly presented by Anne Summers. It is wonderful to see the unique scripts being written for female film characters who just don’t conform … i.e. they have a tad more complexity than a film narrative prop.
'Cruella'? Well. ‘Cruella’ is complexity on steroids, an anti-heroine from that mythical land of children’s classics who is having her past reconstituted in a more 21 Century-acceptable manner.
From that black and white-haired embodiment of evil; a woman so vain and cruel that she would murder 101 Dalmatian puppies for a matching fur coat (the 'Cruella' of the original Dodie Smith novel, 1956) to this 2021 ‘Cruella’ back-story variant; the two versions of the one women have just enough in common to pique our curiosity.
We quickly learn that Cruella was actually given away by her mother to be disposed of at birth; Cruella’s mother not wanting a child to get in the way of her genius. If you remember that the Wicked Queen in ‘Snow White’ wanted her young charge to have a similar end, you’ll quickly get a sense that there are still some fairy-tale archetypes (as distinct from cheap clichés) at play in this very novel retelling.
After fabulously building the history of our very disturbed young lady – (in short, Cruella witnessed the death of ‘kindest woman in the world’ whom she believed was her mother and grows up a pick-pocket orphan in London), we again catch up with Cruella in late 70’s London. And London is the perfect location for our slightly mad, black and white haired fashionista. The punk phenomena is in full swing, street anarchy has fast become de rigueur for any young Londoner who takes their politics (or fashion) seriously, and Cruella’s wickedly nihilistic fashion aesthetic is the perfect 'look’ and attitude to take London by storm … sharp edges, studs, acts of glamorous vandalism, and all.
One tiny problem though. There already is a reigning fashion doyenne who wants all competition despatched; specifically Cruella. A downright psychotic (and truly glamorous) war between these women begins (gorgeously embodied by two iconic ‘Emmas’, Emma Thompson as 'the Baroness' and Emma Stone as ‘Cruella’).
I feel that maybe the big girls in the theatre enjoyed this film a tad more than the little ones. A sound track that included the Stones, the Zombies, the Doors, Nancy Sinatra (and even Doris Day) had us reaching for our Doc Martins to stomp the night away in some dimly lit club ... wearing far too much eyeliner!
Another delight of a film.