Cruella (2021)
May 28, 2021 4:02 PM - Subscribe

In 1970s London amidst the punk rock revolution, a young grifter named Estella is determined to make a name for herself with her designs. She befriends a pair of young thieves who appreciate her appetite for mischief, and together they are able to build a life for themselves on the London streets. One day, Estella's flair for fashion catches the eye of the Baroness von Hellman, a fashion legend who is devastatingly chic and terrifyingly haute. But their relationship sets in motion a course of events and revelations that will cause Estella to embrace her wicked side and become the raucous, fashionable and revenge-bent Cruella.

Does the world NEED an origin story for Cruella de Vil? Surely not. This was surprisingly fun, though, due to the smashing costume design and the embrace of the OTT by both Thompson and Stone.

(Note: absolutely ZERO dogs are harmed in the course of this film.)
posted by praemunire (35 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've watched half so far. It's watchable. I didn't think they needed to make little girl Estella's hair half black and half white, that wig was pretty cringey. I'm also not a fan of voiceovers to explain things, but this wasn't too bad.

I'll probably watch the rest tonight, but it does seem like the usual digitally composited money furnace that comprises Disney's live action fare. But boy does it look like they spent a lot of money on this. It sounds like it too. The soundtrack sounds like a classic rock station. But was most surprised that they included literally two beats from Joe Tex's "I Gotcha" , which is a funk classic with all sorts of non-consensual ickyness in the lyrics.
posted by Catblack at 10:02 AM on May 29 [1 favorite]


All I have seen of this is (spoiler alert, I guess) the 30 seconds of Cruella's mother's death by dalmations knocking her off a cliff, which is getting circulated and mocked all over the internet. It is, indeed, ridiculous.

However, I gather the bulk of the movie is some sort of battle of wits between Emmas Stone and Thompson, who I can only assume are chewing up 1970s London scenery with abandon. So I will definitely watch this once it's devolved to regular Disney Plus streaming, but I am not rewarding this kind of extraneous villain backstory with $30 of premier access money. Lest they foist a less entertaining version of this on Ursula or Yzma. Also, 2 hours and 14 minutes seems way excessive, let's go back to ninety minute runtimes for ludicrous popcorn flicks, please and thank you.
posted by the primroses were over at 11:21 AM on May 29 [3 favorites]


The costuming is utterly fantastic.

It is much grimmer than I could have expected. Almost old-school dark, so kudos to that. But they walk it waaay back.

Not sure about the story, is Cruella/ Estella supposed to be sympathetic? The switch when she realizes the truth of what happened is fine, but she also flipped into treating her friends poorly.

Both Emmas were great. Mark Strong always brings his game.

Looked and sounded expensive. Bit overlong. Did like the subtle implication that the 101 dalmation puppies may be even more terribly inbred than the average "purebreed" dog.
posted by porpoise at 1:32 PM on May 29 [1 favorite]


I am not rewarding this kind of extraneous villain backstory with $30 of premier access money.

I honestly think this movie works better if you just pretend it's a standalone. I have close to zero investment in the original story and everything I enjoyed about Cruella had nothing to do with it. As porpoise said, they really sort of fudge how sympathetic Cruella is supposed to be by the end.
posted by praemunire at 4:18 PM on May 29 [5 favorites]


Mrs. Dearly says Cruella had half black, half white hair when they were classmates in the original Dodie Smith book.
posted by brujita at 7:58 PM on May 29 [4 favorites]


in the original Dodie Smith book

I can totally respect that from a writing perspective (esp. of the time), and explains the tie-in with dalmatian breed coat phenotype.

This movie did ok with different = bullied v fitting-in =/= (necessarily) being accepted thing. Then a "feel-good" callback to that in the climax.

I'm actually historically kind of curious about human colouration - heterochromia iridium (different coloured eyes) is not super uncommon in humans (and seems more common in people of mixed heritages?).

Split coloured cats are encountered but could be due to the sheer number of new cats produced each year compared to humans, but I don't think I've seen that genetic phenomenon in humans.

I'm mildlycurious that BigD+ greenlit a script that attributed being an antagonist/ villain with both nature and nuture, if a little heavy handed, especially in a feedback reinforcing role.

Of course, I'm way overthinking this, but in retrospect as a standalone story I actually really like how they told a story of someone with immense trauma, worked to overcome it, and is forced the face the trauma again deals with it - or rather, doesn't deal and reverts because they have power to not have to deal with the superficial aspects of the trauma. All within a context that there's a strong genetic component on responses to trauma w/ and w/o power.

And that the genetic component contributed to worsening the original trauma (by Estella being a "genius"/ iconoclast). Young Estelle is a shit - she stands up for herself, but she antagonized others beyond necessary, but she felt it was necessary at the time. I would really like to hear opinions about those sequences.

I guess this is a story about how privilege corrupts, especially when pain damages empathy. I dig young Estelle's style, but she's a shit kid, correct? Or is she being persecuted for having her "own style and demeanor" and standing up for herself?

My read is that she's a bad seed, a bad person, and utterly lacking introspection and blaming her circumstances and using them as an excuse to go with her impulses.
posted by porpoise at 12:24 AM on May 30


Just saw it in the theater!! It’s absolutely gorgeous, the costumes are amazing and the music is so great.
The story is just sort of there, but it’s fun to watch the two Emmas throw down.
posted by exceptinsects at 1:25 AM on May 30 [3 favorites]


I dig young Estelle's style, but she's a shit kid, correct? Or is she being persecuted for having her "own style and demeanor" and standing up for herself?

Mostly column B, a little of column A. She's somewhat offputting, but gets a disproportionate reaction from the awful brats she's surrounded with. Many such kids end up becoming shy nerds, but her response was to escalate. It's worth noting that her one friend seems to be a pretty good person.

Also that although Emma Stone's in her early 30s, Cruella might not even be twenty yet. I forget the exact title cards, but she gets kicked out of primary school, so can't be more than eleven when she comes to London. I don't think it's supposed to be more than ten years later when she gets the gig with the Baroness (same dogs!). So I would guess the Baroness's money and her own success help freeze her in an adolescent posture towards the world going forward.
posted by praemunire at 10:39 AM on May 30 [2 favorites]


Shut up. This movie rules.

It was so awesome to see it in a theatre. Those needle drops sounded gorgeous blasting from the sound system. The sets and costumes are wonderful, and the characters are outrageous. The Vivienne Westwood-esque fashion set pieces. So fun. So so fun.

By the way, I have never seen “101 Dalmations” because I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness and my mom thought the movie was diabolical because the villain is named Cruella Deville. Maybe I should watch it!
posted by chrchr at 10:27 PM on May 31 [4 favorites]


I just wrote an article about punk fashion in Cruella!

As for the film itself... I thought it worked as a first cult film for someone who was interested in cult fare but didn’t have access to/wasn’t interested in movies like Repo Man or Ladies & Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains.
posted by pxe2000 at 2:22 PM on June 1 [3 favorites]


Shut up. This movie rules.

I get people who just don't want to see any more Disney exercises in derivative IP, I really do. But almost all the whingers I've seen clearly have no idea of the substance of the movie! Most of the formal critical response--i.e., from people who actually have to see the movie--has been at least mildly positive. It's irritating.
posted by praemunire at 3:49 PM on June 1 [1 favorite]


I think the backlash is purely from the ways it's tied to 101 Dalmatians. Everything I've heard from people who watched the film indicate it's best to not think about 101 Dalmatians at all and simply treat this as Gatekeep Gaslight Girlboss: the Movie.

The fact the movie is as good as it is, but almost assuredly would not have been made without the tie to 101 Dalmatians, surely says more about the current state of pop culture (and specifically Disney's grip on pop culture) than the quality of this movie in particular.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 4:38 PM on June 1 [2 favorites]


I see a lot of people mocking the idea that Cruella is out to avenge her mother's death-by-Dalmatian, which would be pretty goshdarned silly if it were in the movie.
posted by praemunire at 6:43 PM on June 1 [1 favorite]


I enjoyed this! Question for Disney fans: in this movie Cruella explicitly says she doesn’t kill dogs. Is this a “correction” of the Disney stories - has Cruella always just been misunderstood — or does she turn dogicidal later?
posted by rogerroger at 7:01 AM on June 2


let's go back to ninety minute runtimes for ludicrous popcorn flicks, please and thank you.

This has been my complaint for pretty much everything recently (e.g.: WW 1984, Army of the Dead). If American International Pictures could do it in less than an hour and forty minutes, so can you.
posted by mikelieman at 7:08 AM on June 2 [3 favorites]


Is this a “correction” of the Disney stories - has Cruella always just been misunderstood — or does she turn dogicidal later?

Nobody knows.

Obviously, Disney couldn't have even an antiheroine who wants to skin puppies. Given that, I was baffled when I saw the trailer as to how they were going to make this movie. They basically just...ignore the need to get from point A to point B. And while there probably are some true 101 Dalmatians stans out there who are furious, I don't think most of us care about that particular canon.
posted by praemunire at 12:31 PM on June 2


Apropos of nada, the hardcore 101 Dalmatian experience is The Starlight Barking, which Cruella de Vil sleeps through, as do virtually all the other humans. It's a very strange book.
posted by Grangousier at 2:58 PM on June 2 [4 favorites]


praemunire I was also baffled — how was Disney going to humanize a literal puppy killer? I feel like their choice made sense for this particular movie but lowers the stakes of the original 101 Dalmatians. I guess that’s another reason it was fun to leave my brain at the door and enjoy the wickedly cool costumes and makeup.
posted by rogerroger at 5:42 PM on June 2 [2 favorites]


The discrepancy between the somewhat settled, puppy-gifting Cruella at the close of "Cruella" and the crazed, pro-dog-skinning Cruella of "101 Dalmatians" needled me too, but it occurred to me that this set-up might be in service of a larger image rehab.

Maybe in the next movie, a vengeful Baroness (whether on the lam or still imprisoned) lifts another page from Estella/Cruella's book and has a Cruella imposter terrorizing Anita and Roger? As DIY, if the Baroness has escaped, which is why that Cruella looks decades older than the one at the end of this movie, (where we find Pongo & Perdita only a few years from starting their massive brood); via one doppleganger or a fleet of imposters, if she's organizing from behind bars? I mean, was Stone's Cruella even responsible for those gifted puppies? They were left on doorsteps in logoed boxes with air holes, and accompanied by handwritten notes; the Cruella wigs delivered to B&W gala attendees were in House of Baroness boxes and had swoopily cursive notes from the sender.

No, I've no idea how such a scheme could possibly square with loyal Jasper and Horace's traditional henching activities in "101 Dalmatians;" three separate doubles is a lot of heavy lifting. But so was a lot of "Cruella" plotting? I paid Disney+'s extortion fee for a gorgeous-looking flick with two strong female leads, not an airtight screenplay. Poor Catherine was opaque, John the Valet was a relentless cipher, and I thought Jasper was the most sympathetic character. Also, as the filmmakers intended, Horace/Artie 4eva. Hartie? 'Arrace?
posted by Iris Gambol at 3:26 PM on June 3 [2 favorites]


I mean, you can imagine the whole 101 Dalmatians story being a wild urban legend of the events of Cruella. The Baroness was sure that Cruella had made her dogs into a coat, after all.

John the Valet had a bit of a service kink, I reckon.
posted by praemunire at 4:00 PM on June 3 [3 favorites]


The bulk of the movie is Estella/Cruella and the Baroness duelling and one-upping each other.

- In her office, while Estella (recently tested by super-picky food order delivered rapid-fire, as the boss walked away) holds the lunch tray, the Baroness threatens the two guys from the department store who want design input. Mentioning how one guy is siphoning $$ to offshore accounts, she rattles off numbers. Not all of the Baroness's own money is tied up in the estate which went to Estella's "heir" Cruella, and there's funding for revenge. (Also, Estella got the order right; her reward is boxing up the food, riding in the car with the boss, and talking dress design one-on-one.)
- Estella/Cruella crashes the first B&W ball and breaks the dress code a Baroness red dress from a previous season; when the Baroness learns this, she says something along the lines of well of course I like it, it's mine, and Estella responds yes, but I made it better.
- The Baroness appropriates the centerpiece dress design, and her protégé makes it a trap that ruins the collection and drives the audience to a different fashion show entirely.
- The spoken advice the Baroness gives Estella (not to mention what she signals over and over again with her behavior) is to take care not to care about anyone, because that's a clear liability and a hindrance to success -- but Estella/Cruella triumphs because her family and friends (one of whom is a longtime Baroness employee) help her.

Even when Cruella is 'burying' Estella (an end to the duelling/dualling), she crows that she's better than the Baroness. So the next movie is the Baroness attempting to separate Cruella (who danced pretty close to the line while duelling and worried her chosen family) from that support.
posted by Iris Gambol at 4:02 PM on June 3 [1 favorite]


Great article pxe2000!!
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 4:09 AM on June 5 [1 favorite]


I found the big twist in this movie to be really interesting in how it evokes the same hereditary of evil narratives that Game of Thrones or fellow-Disney property Star Wars both fixate upon. It's curious how while there's slightly less emphasis on the positive elements of bloodlines these days (even if it's still a means to get magic powers and/or become a very powerful Jedi), there's still a prevailing hoary understanding of being cursed by one's birth into villainy.
posted by Apocryphon at 12:08 AM on June 7




I really enjoyed this! Emma Stone and Emma Thompson rock, the 1970s soundtrack is wonderful, the costume design is amazing, and yes to 70s Liberty's!
posted by ellieBOA at 12:44 AM on June 9 [1 favorite]


John the Valet had a bit of a service kink, I reckon.

And more than a passing resemblance to Max von Mayerling (Erich Stroheim) in Sunset Blvd. I imagine that wasn't accidental.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:48 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


I honestly think this movie works better if you just pretend it's a standalone.

The idea of canon has really made storytelling tedious. The old Greek myths were good about not worrying about this. Sometimes Odysseus was a crafty hero, and sometimes he was a tyrannical asshole. This film makes no sense if you consider it a prequel to 101 Dalmatians, and yet it was pretty fun.
posted by nushustu at 11:57 AM on July 4 [1 favorite]


Hey this is finally on regular Disney plus!

I thought it was fun, but way overlong. The plot was hella silly, which is fine, but means there's no reason not to tighten it up.

That said, it's a perfect "throw on in the background" movie, what with the awesome soundtrack and cool costumes and utterly disposable plotting. I am sure I will half watch this many times.

Why did no one tell me that Nandor from What We Do in the Shadows is Roger? Delightful. Would so watch a rom com sequel about Kayvan Novak and Kirby Howell-Baptiste falling in love, with or without dalmatian puppies.
posted by the primroses were over at 8:03 PM on August 27


Watching it now. It's a lot of fun. They not only get 1964 as right as I'd be able to recognise (I spent most of that year being foetal, and the rest of it staring at the ceiling), but they get 1974 just right. I don't understand why the music stays in the 1960s (probably a dreary practical reason to do with rights) as 1974 had so much music that would have fit the action much better.
posted by Grangousier at 1:56 PM on August 29


(and, of course, just as I typed that up popped Fire by the Ohio Players, so obviously this film is trying to embarrass me.)
posted by Grangousier at 2:00 PM on August 29


Although there are lots of anachronisms - security cameras, bin bags, that sort of thing.

Sorry, I'm probably going to do this for the next hour or so.
posted by Grangousier at 2:10 PM on August 29


So time's gone all over the place - music from anywhere, art-fashion statements out of the post-Face 1980s, according to my wife (who knows these things) the fabulous gold dress is a bit Alexander McQueen. But the Golden Wonder crisp packet is perfect.
posted by Grangousier at 2:43 PM on August 29


Although obviously someone using the word "anachronism" in relation to this film is probably taking life a bit seriously and could do with a lie down.
posted by Grangousier at 3:13 PM on August 29 [1 favorite]


The party revenge with all the black-and-white wigs is straight out of an unmade Adam and the Ants video, I have to say. Does the heart good.
posted by Grangousier at 3:16 PM on August 29


Inspiration, I think: The Black and White Ball was a masquerade ball held on November 28, 1966 at the Plaza Hotel in New York City. (Wikipedia) Hosted by author Truman Capote, the ball was in honor of The Washington Post publisher Katharine Graham. [...] Capote's friend, author Dominick Dunne, had given a black and white ball in 1964 for his tenth wedding anniversary. Capote attended with Alvin Dewey and others he had met while researching In Cold Blood. Capote was also inspired by the "Ascot scene" from the film My Fair Lady in which the women were all dressed in black and white.

Capote's masked ball had 540 guests; Dunne wasn't invited! (Esquire link)
Inside Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball, striking color photographs, at Magnum Photos
posted by Iris Gambol at 3:37 PM on August 29 [2 favorites]


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