CRUELLA – Review by Susan Granger

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Opening nationwide in theaters and streaming, Cruella is an all-new, live-action origin story, recounting the early days of the screen’s most notorious – and infamously fashionable – dog-napping villainess, the legendary Cruella de Vil from Disney’s 1961 animated classic 101 Dalmatians.

Set in 1970s London, amid the punk rock revolution, this fantasy-adventure follows Estella (Emma Stone), a rebellious youngster who is suddenly orphaned. Befriended by two young thieves – Jasper (Joel Fry) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser) – she soon becomes a clever grifter.

Since Estella’s always wanted to be a fashion designer, her buddies slyly help her land an entry-level job at the upscale Liberty emporium where her antics cause constant chaos. That’s where she catches the eye of the Baroness (Emma Thompson), the Anna Wintour-inspired, viciously imperious diva of haute couture.

“Let me give you some advice,” the Baroness says. “You can’t care about anyone. Everyone else is an obstacle. You care about what an obstacle wants or needs – you’re dead. If I cared about anyone or thing, I might’ve died. You have the talent. Whether you have the killer instinct is the big question.”

Cleverly befriending tabloid journalist Anita Darling (Kirby Howell-Baptiste), along with androgynous Artie (John McCrea), and earning the subversive allegiance of the Baroness’s valet (Mark Strong), sassy Estella gradually evolves into chic, witchy Cruella, proclaiming: “I was born brilliant, born bad, and a little bit mad.”

Kudos to costume designer Jenny Bevan for evoking nostalgic memories of British designers Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood, who brought modern punk and new wave fashion into the mainstream. Westwood viewed punk as a way of “seeing if one could put a spoke in the system.”

Written by Dana Fox, Tony McNamara, Aline Brosh McKenna, Kelly Marcel and Steve Zissis, it’s directed by Craig Gillespie (I Tonya). Wonderfully wicked, it’s commendable for LGBTQ+ representation – and stick around for a surprise during the credits.

On the Granger Gauge, Cruella is a deviously evil 8, also streaming on Disney+ with Premier Access.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.