When I learned that Cruella de Vil would have her movie, I was not surprised. The grotesque or nonsensical grotesque character, the great evil of The 101 Dalmatians (Dodie Smith, 1956) – later popularized by Disney in 1961 – has enough appeal to suppose him and create a before and after on the big screen. Especially a before, a “how her story began.” More than a character from the children’s universe, she now seems, by excessive and spectacular, a Fellinesque character. But no, the Cruella (2021) by Australian director Craig Gilliespie is closer to the star system of Greta Garbo, Glenn Close and even Meryl Streep.
When television series or movies adapt a character from an animated one, they are contained in the term live action or real image. This would be perhaps the first thing that catches the attention of the recent work of the also director of Mr. Woodcock; Lars and a real girl; Me, Tonya … When it comes to cinematographic issues, the rankings don’t stop. Now they are associated. Well, Cruella is a prequel (the cacophony was intentional) based on the Disney adaptation and even the literary reference. And this also frames it in what is known as a spin-off or derivative. The character of the ruthless lady with the Dalmatians and fur lover is a by-product of a tale where she has all the elements of a hostile but bewitching personality. She is the antihero who reverses the defeat or at least grants it long time grace.
To deduce Cruella de Vil’s likes for fashion and her antipathy for Dalmatian dogs, to understand the origins of their evil …, the screenwriters (Tony McNamara, Dana Fox) created a succession of circumstances where Estella creates a kind of icon countercultural that is De Vil herself. The viewer attends the context of the seventies in London, in which music and fashion come together resoundingly, making punk the performative vocation that identifies the villain in the making. The previously excluded begins to be even rarer and that mediates the attachment of other rejected ones.
Gilliespie might have called Margot Robbie for this young Cruella, but he has the character of Harley Quinn very close. Anne Hathaway? It wouldn’t be bad either, but beyond mimicking the world of fashion, Cruella has a lot of The Devil Wears Padra (David Frankel, 2006). Then Emma Stone is the chosen one, an actress who is expected a lot and pleases a lot. As if that weren’t enough, Emma Thompson, who with her Baroness Von Hellman can parody Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly (The Devil Wears…), will be the rival and the motivational touchstone for the future image of Cruella de Vil .
There is a spite in the main character that the writers cover with humor, but do not forget that we are entering a plot full of gimmicky successions to support a strategic psychology of revenge. All that Cruella asks is to overthrow one authority to impose another. The character’s tactics ridicule, although in the background and the surface what they seek is to lynch until the existing thing disappears. It is direct when one of her friends asks: “You will not kill her, will you?” To which she responds: “She is not part of the current plan, but maybe we should be adaptable.” On this point, there is a much more interesting dialogue when the baroness and Estella, who is already an alias of Cruella, meet at a restaurant. For this reason, this film with its refined staging and superb soundtrack, of generic and generational empowerment, surpasses the category of “film for children”.
Of course, the great challenge of the two Emma deserves to be interrupted frequently by a star that enters and leaves her house like a dog: the rat chihuahua. He has plenty of reasons and, to be honest, he really wants to. Ω