CRUELLA – Review by Lois Alter Mark

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Cruella just may be the best movie of the year, daaaaaahling. It’s Wicked mixed with The Devil Wears Prada, and it’s so edgy and full of life (and, yes, some death), it brings Disney into the 21st century.

From the opening scenes starring Tipper Seifert-Cleveland as young Estella, with her two-toned hair and screw-the-bullies attitude, it’s evident that we’d better buckle up. By the time she’s an orphan in 1970s London, and has teamed up with pickpockets, Jasper (Joel Fry) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser), we deeply understand her trauma.

But Estella (Emma Stone) is smart and persistent and a talented fashion designer who just wants to create. When she lands her dream/soon to be a nightmare job, working with the legendary – and despicable – Baroness (Emma Thompson), she begins her transformation.

Emma Stone is a revelation. She totally embraces the devilish Cruella, giving her such depth, it’s impossible not to feel empathy for her. In fact, you kind of want to be her friend.

Watching Emma Squared is like a master class in acting. The two Emmas are at the top of their game and their scenes together are popcorn-worthy.

I kept waiting to hear Taylor Swift’s Mad Woman – “What a shame she went mad” – playing in the background of Cruella because that’s how women who are justifiably angry about their treatment in life are often portrayed. Instead, the killer soundtrack is filled with iconic pop songs from London’s swinging sixties to the birth of punk, setting the tone for a vibrant sensory experience enriched by fun fashions that are a feast for the eyes.

Cruella doesn’t quite mesh with our image of the villain from 101 Dalmatians but who cares? The movie works fine as a standalone. It also works fine as an origin story. Here, she becomes more of a mean girl than a monster, and there’s no way she would kill any of those cute puppies (although the dogs are not quite as sweet in this version). That’s not to say that a sequel couldn’t have her falling deeper into madness.

Ultimately, like all villain origin stories, Cruella reveals the importance of focusing on mental health. It proves that a person’s actions are often motivated by their childhood experiences and that good and evil are not, well, black and white.

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Lois Alter Mark

Lois Alter Mark

Lois Alter Mark is an award-winning writer who reviews films on Midlife at the Oasis. A former contributing writer for Entertainment Weekly for more than a decade, she also reviewed films for NickJr.com for many years. She is a member of San Diego Film Critics Society and tweets from @loisaltermark. She writes about travel for USA Today and Forbes.