Stepping into the ever-stylish shoes of a much-loved villain is no small feat. Yet, Emma Stone, of La La Land fame, succeeds in adding a fashionable flair to the character of Cruella de Vil. Cruella is a film that’s as much about fashion as it is the story of a young woman turned notorious villain. The world of 1970s London comes alive with stunning costumes and a killer soundtrack that reflects the rebellious nature of the era.
A New Look at a Classic Villain
In this origin story, we meet a young Estella, played by Tipper Seifert-Cleveland, who dreams of being a fashion designer. Her aspirations take a dark turn when a tragic incident puts her on the path to becoming the infamous villain, Cruella de Vil. Emma Stone shines in this role, transforming from the humble Estella to the dramatic Cruella.
Just as intriguing is Baroness von Hellman, elegantly brought to life by Emma Thompson. Hellman is a ruthless fashion magnate who becomes entangled in Estella’s plot for revenge. The interaction between Stone and Thompson offers some of the film’s best moments, often echoing a sense of The Devil Wears Prada.
Amid the larger-than-life personas, Stone’s partners in crime, Jasper and Horace, played by Joel Fry (Game of Thrones) and Paul Walter Hauser respectively, provide much-needed comedy and camaraderie. Their trio’s dynamic, much like in the animated classic, adds a distinctive charm to this high-stakes drama.
A High Fashion Affair
The fashion in Cruella plays a significant role in illustrating the transformation of Estella into Cruella. This striking fashion journey wouldn’t have been possible without the imaginative genius of costume designer Jenny Beavan. The two-time Oscar winner (known for her work in films like Mad Max: Fury Road and A Room with a View) showcased her unique talent in Cruella with stunning designs that brought the London punk scene to life on the big screen.
From Estella’s modest thrift store finds to Cruella’s extravagant outfits that she wears with an air of defiance, Beavan beautifully conveys the story of the character’s evolution through her costume design. Not to mention, Thompson’s character, the Baroness, parades an array of sophisticated and opulent outfits.
Behind the Velvet Curtains
Behind the scenes, Cruella was brought to life by a talented team led by director Craig Gillespie. Known for his work in I, Tonya, Gillespie guides Stone’s transformation from the meek Estella into the assertive Cruella. He worked closely with screenwriters Dana Fox, Aline Brosh McKenna, and Tony McNamara, who carefully crafted a script that brings a fresh perspective to this classic Disney character.
Celebrating the Craft
It’s hard to talk about Cruella without highlighting the work of makeup and hair designer Nadia Stacey. Stacey has collaborated with Gillespie and Stone in the past on I, Tonya and brought her expertise to Cruella, creating the unforgettable look of the lead character.
From Estella’s simple, unkempt appearance to Cruella’s dramatic, black-and-white hairstyle, Stacey’s work is commendable. It’s the detail, coupled with Beavan’s phenomenal costumes, that truly bring out the transformation.
Reception and Response
Cruella opened to largely positive reviews from critics and currently has an audience score of 97% on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics have praised its daring approach to the origin story and the standout performances of Emma Stone and Emma Thompson.
Cruella was made available on Disney’s Premier Access for audiences who preferred to watch from home, much like other recent Disney releases like Black Widow.
Hints of a Sequel
For those who left the theaters wanting more, there’s good news. In June 2021, it was confirmed by Walt Disney Studios, that a sequel to Cruella is in the early stages of development. While no details have been released about the plot, it’s exciting to think about where the story will go.
While Cruella shares some common ground with films like Maleficent, it stands on its own as a fun and fashionable romp through 1970s London. The director, costume designer and the actors and writers behind Cruella, have given us more than a movie. They’ve invited us into a world where fashion becomes a form of rebellion. Think the Paris fashion industry meets Vivienne Westwood.
The era of the ’70s is not only visually represented through the costume and production design of Cruella but also audibly resonated through its punchy soundtrack.
Additionally, the tracks are carefully curated, painting a portrait of the punk-rock era of rebellious London. A few standout tracks include Blondie’s One Way or Another and Should I Stay or Should I Go by the Clash.
Emma Stone vs. Glenn Close
There’s no talking about Cruella without mentioning Glenn Close’s memorable portrayal in the 1996 live-action adaptation of 101 Dalmatians. Close brought an undeniable menace to the role that has remained memorable decades later.
Again, Cruella is a celebration of high fashion in ’70s London. The film’s strength lies in its ability to fuse fashion and film in a way that’s seldom seen. And as we wait for the sequel, Disney’s live-action films promise more intriguing stories to come. And we’re here for it.