We Live in a Self-Preservation Society

Theaters are (hopefully for reals this time I mean it damn it) reopening in spades, and while you have a movie made for the theatrical experience out this weekend as well — A Quiet Place: Part II — it’s well-matched by Disney’s latest live-action “remake,” Cruella. To be clear, this is neither a live-action remake of or live-action prequel to the animated movie or the 1996 live-action remake of that — consider it a soft reworking, much like Maleficent was.

The story, as portrayed by the film’s trailers, barely showcases a fifth of the movie, and I will not divulge it here, but what you get is a deliciously twisted, twisty story — not duplicitous, a problem that plagued tentpole movies like Atomic Blonde and Solo: A Star Wars Story, but twisty — you know not what to expect from this, trust me. Director Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya) brings to life a sharp, biting screenplay with word after word bringing to mind The Devil Wears Prada meets David Mamet, and his actors bring performances to match! Under less inspired hands, this would have starred Margot Robbie (ugh) and Meryl Streep (UGH), but Emma Stone (La-La Land), also serving as an Executive Producer on the film, goes from innocent-looking pickpocket to psychotic nutcase with brilliance — I’ve never seen her play an out-and-out villain before, and she may not have played one until now, but what a way to break into the crew! It should be mentioned here and now that despite the Disney tag, the character of Cruella is not nearly as humanized as Maleficent was (you can put down the Molotovs, PETA), but one can definitely tell there was once a lost child in the character.

The dueling Emma, Ms. Thompson (Sense & Sensibility), commands the screen as much as Cruella does — the auditorium fell silent when she delivered her first monologue; you could have heard a pin drop — she pours on the creepy sauce and doesn’t stop; truly one of the best ladies of the English cinema and stage! Joel Fry (Yesterday) and Paul Walter Hauser (Richard Jewell) play as Jasper and Horace, Cruella’s erstwhile partners-in-crime, and while Hauser is funny as the idiotic one, it’s surprisingly Fry who gives humanity to the henchman, serving as the conscience on the lady’s shoulder… make of that what you will!

As much as I don’t want to say the movie is an audio-visual feast, it’s an audio-visual feast! Filmed in digital with a color scheme and grain structure suggesting the original The Italian Job and peppered with songs of the era (the 1970’s) and then some, the film plays a sort of carnal, lustful look at the worlds of fashion and theft — how the other half lived and how beauty corrupts everyone… absolutely everyone.

Lush and sharp as an acid-soaked whip, Cruella is a terrific live-action reworking that gloriously removes the stain of Mulan (2020), and though it’s available as a $30 extra on Disney+, you owe it to the theaters of America (to say nothing of your senses) to see it on the biggest screen nearest you! Again, if you think you know what to expect from this movie, rest assured – you do not! As the DeVil herself says, there’s much more bad things coming!

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