CRUELLA (2021) – My rating: 8.7/10

A woman with half-black half-white hair, in a black dress, against a half-white half-black background. The title "Cruella" in red.Cruella is a live-action feature comedy based on the character Cruella de Vil from Dodie Smith’s 1956 novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians. The film was directed by Craig Gillespie with a screenplay by Dana Fox and Tony McNamara, from a story by Aline Brosh McKenna, Kelly Marcel, and Steve Zissis. It is the third live-action adaptation in the 101 Dalmatians franchise and serves as a reboot and an origin story for the title character. Set in London during the punk rock movement of the 1970s, the film revolves around an aspiring fashion designer, as she explores the path that will lead her to become a notorious up-and-coming fashion designer known as Cruella de Vil. Well Done!

Estella (Emma Stone) is a creative child with a talent for fashion and a nefarious streak. Estella’s mother, Catherine (Emily Beecham), decides to pull her from school to keep her record clean and move to London. On the way there, she stops at an upper-class party to ask for financial assistance. Despite being told to stay in the car, Estella sneaks into the party and unintentionally attracts the attention of the host’s three ferocious Dalmatians. They chase her outside and push Catherine off a cliff side balcony to her death. Orphaned and blaming herself for Catherine’s death, Estella runs away to London and befriends street urchins Jasper (Joel Fry) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser). Jasper decides to take her in as a “distraction,” but Estella ultimately bonds with them.

Ten years later, Estella practices thievery and does grifts with Jasper and Horace, honing her fashion skills by designing their disguises, alongside their dogs, Buddy and Wink. For her birthday, Jasper and Horace get her an entry-level job at the Liberty department store. However, Estella is made a janitor and denied the chance to use her talents. When Estella drunkenly redecorates a window display, The Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson) — a renowned but authoritarian haute couture designer—is impressed with Estella’s work and offers her a coveted job at the Baroness’s fashion house. Estella eagerly accepts and gains the Baroness’s confidence. Although proud that her designs are put on display, she eventually notices her boss wearing a necklace that once belonged to Catherine. When the Baroness claims that an employee had previously stolen it, Estella asks Jasper and Horace to help her retrieve the necklace during the Baroness’s upcoming Black and White Ball.

To conceal her identity at the ball, Estella creates an alter-ego for herself named “Cruella” and wears one of the baroness’s old designs purchased from a vintage clothing store owner named Artie (John McCrea). Cruella steals the spotlight at the ball, buying Jasper and Horace enough time to break into The Baroness’s high-security vault, only to realize that the Baroness is already wearing the necklace. Jasper, straying from the original plan, disguises himself as a waiter and releases rats into the party. As panic ensues, Estella manages to swipe the necklace. Noticing her necklace has been stolen, the Baroness summons her Dalmatians with a dog whistle, causing Estella to realize that the baroness is ultimately responsible for Catherine’s death. In the ensuing chaos, one of the Baroness’s Dalmatians swallows the necklace.

Seeking revenge, and to retrieve the necklace, Estella orders Jasper and Horace to kidnap the baroness’s Dalmatians. Cruella upstages the baroness by appearing at events and gatherings in extravagant fashions, gaining notoriety via Estella’s childhood friend and columnist Anita Darling (Kirby Howell-Baptiste). Cruella’s haughty and arrogant behavior increasingly discomforts Jasper, as well as the baroness.

I had never heard of Cruella until I started watching the television series, Once Upon a Time.  This movie really put it all in perspective.  Emma Stone has the innocence and yet, the aggressiveness to make the role of Cruella believable.  The costumes were fabulous and the acting was outstanding.  With all the superhero, fantasy, and fairytale villain-type movies being made, perhaps the Academy should make a new category called Best Super Fantasy Film.  That way, movies like “Shang-Chi”, “Spiderman”, “The Chronicles of Narnia”, and can receive the acknowledgment it deserves.  I think it’s an insult to nominate a movie this entertaining and well put together for just a Best Makeup and Hairstyling Oscar.  The story of Cruella is brilliant and I’m sure much toil went into making this production work.  Cruella grossed over $233 million worldwide. Emma Stone was nominated for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical at the 79th Golden Globe Awards. A sequel is in development, with Stone set to reprise her titular role. On the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, 74% of 400 critics have given the film a positive review, with an average rating of 6.8/10. The website’s critics consensus reads: “Cruella can’t quite answer the question of why its title character needed an origin story, but this dazzling visual feast is awfully fun to watch whenever its leading ladies lock horns.” I fully enjoyed Cruella and recommend it for the whole family.  Cruella can be seen streaming on Disney + — Check It Out!

[CRUELLA is Oscar-nominated at the 94th Academy Awards for Best Makeup and Hairstyling — Totaling 1 Oscar Nomination]

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