Emma Stone and Emma Thompson vamp the screen in a female empowering tale of one of Disney’s most famous villains, Cruella De Vil. Directed by Craig Gillespie “Cruella” was released May 28th in theaters as well as Disney+ with premiere access.
Immediately we get a glimpse of a young Cruella, whose name is actually Estella, the alternate personality known as Cruella is established as a side of Estella who just wants to rebel against conformity in style as well as attitude, which doesn’t bode well for a girl in the 1960’s. Estella is a misunderstood child with a love for fashion. Despite her natural two toned hair of black and white which incites constant bullying from other children, she persevered and made friends with the young Anita Darling, laying the groundwork for an early alliance between the two. A powerful concept for young girls, showing sisterhood rather than the original enemy format we see between girls in film.
Although, obvious characteristics of Cruella are delivered with perfection by Emma Stone, such as her over the top style and waif like stature, she still was missing some of the villain’s signature traits. In this adaptation Cruella does not smoke, which isn’t that big of a loss but the true kicker is that she does not possess an obsession for furs. In the first few scenes of the film we see her form a bond with a young pup that stays with her throughout the story, leaving the classic puppy hungry dog killer at the curb.
Female empowerment reigns throughout the film. The Baroness played by Emma Thompson portrays the antagonist and an equal adversary to the famed Cruella. A fashion icon and the arbiter of style, the Baroness parades throughout, poised to perfection in constant pursuit to remain on top in the fashion world. She discovers Estella by passing a window display that Estella altered without permission and immediately hires her to come work for her esteemed fashion house, from there the true plot begins.
Estella discovers the Baroness has possession of her mothers necklace which becomes the catalyst for the maniacal Cruella to re-emerge and ultimately stay. The Baroness has a mix of intrigue and subtle bitterness towards the Cruella figure, who is constantly upstaging her at her prestigious events but keeps an eerie calm throughout as she proves to be much more deviant and cunning than her rival.
Thompson describes the intrigue of playing a dark character, taking into account how women are so rarely permitted to explore wicked roles.
“Like so many other women of genius, who died without producing anything and without using their genius. What did they do? And actually, it is a very good point,” Thompson says of her character’s single-minded nature as well as the root of the Baroness’ despicable personality.
Stone also expressed how both characters are very powerful without losing any femininity. Each woman is unapologetic and expresses herself how she sees fit which demands your attention in each scene, with the dignified saunter of the Baroness and the authoritative strut of Cruella.
“This is about two very powerful women that express themselves very differently, but are ultimately completely in charge of their destinies. One of the things I like most about them – and there is this in The Favourite – is that they’re not necessarily these aspirational people, they’re very flawed and complicated people,” said Stone.
The undeniable fashion took center stage throughout, Jenny Beavan delivered looks tailored to perfection with the Baroness as well as the unhinged punk style Cruella would so often display.
“Sometimes fashion in real life is written off as uninteresting or too flowery. People turn their nose up at the idea of fashion being a noble pursuit. But at the same time when you see these really great designers and see what they do, you see all the artistry. And I’ve gotten to see that kind of up-close in life,” Stone said about how fashion can sometimes be overlooked.
If you are able to set aside a bias for the original dog killer villainess, then this adaptation of Ms. De Vil’s origins will suit you just fine. The visuals remain consistently stunning and the plot transitions and progresses continually throughout. Cruella is an empowering female lead film that both men and women alike can enjoy.