• Samantha Howson

Cruella (2021)

Director: Craig Gillespie

Writer: Dana Fox & Tony McNamara

Actors: Emma Stone, Emma Thompson, Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser, Emily Beecham, Kirby Howell-Baptiste & Mark Strong.

Genre: Crime/ Comedy

The 60s and 70s are iconic in England, synonymous with the punk revolution, rebellion and changes in conformity. Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya) brings us yet another strong, ambitious and rebellious female character that needs no other introduction than: Cruella.

Emma Stone presents a fabulous and fashion forward Estella, a young girl with distinctive black and white hair, who’s anti-establishment is cemented at a young age, mostly through her unique fashion style. She finds herself orphaned after a tragic incident and winds up in London. Attaching herself to Jasper and Horace, two orphan boys; and they become a family. Ten years later and still stealing to get by, Jasper surprises Estella with an opportunity to become big in the fashion industry.

In typical Disney ‘fashion’, pun intended, the visuals of this film are refined to the smallest detail. Fashion is in fact the centrepiece to this masterpiece. And yes, I said masterpiece. It mixes a Guy Richie heist film (with many songs coming from Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels), with Wes Anderson cinematography and quirkiness of Roald Dahl films. With the clever use of fashion to progress story and showcase Cruella’s devious and complicated mind.

The silhouettes of the characters which show villainesque brilliance, present an amazing balance of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in the characters. It can certainly be difficult to present an origin story of a villain but was brilliantly executed. It is difficult not to remember Gillespie’s I, Tonya (2017) which was also handled in the same elegancy. A strong and ambitious female who not only challenges the norm but succeeds with great personal lost. For this Disney Villain in particular, it will be interesting to see how they will develop her further as Cruella 2 has been green-lit.

Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser play heart-warming and loyal supporting roles. The grounding that they provide Cruella, helps to keep her mostly good for… most of the film. The amazing cast shines through in every scene, it truly is a balanced and well-cast film that leaves no-one behind. Emily Beecham (Little Joe) as the sweet and down to earth mother of Estella is brilliantly juxtaposed against Emma Thompson’s (Last Christmas) deliciously evil Baroness.

I have seen negative reviews and have heard before how villain origin stories can be… frustrating. Some audiences prefer to see villains as villains. My opinion of this is that films that focus on a villain is difficult, yes. But in classic storytelling, there always has to be a greater villain whether it is tangible or an idea. Joker’s is society. Thanos is universal imbalance. And Cruella’s is the Baroness.

This greater villain usually sympathises the main character and for some audiences, villains should not be sympathised with but…well, villainised. Either way, if Disney’s plans are for two Cruella films and a 101 Dalmatian’s live-action film, then I think they started off on a high with Cruella. I anticipate the development of Cruella to reach the point of villainy by the time we reach the 101 Dalmatian’s film. And unlike other Disney live-action films, this one has me excited.

Production Designer: Fiona Crombie

Cinematographer: Nicolas Karakatsanis

Music: Nicholas Britell

Production Company: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Distribution: Disney +

Budget: $100- $200



All images and videos are the property of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

Poster images were found through: www.impawards.com

All opinions are my own and factual information is found through IMDB or Wikipedia.