Cruella is a crime comedy film that’s based on the popular villain Cruella de Vil from 101 Dalmations (1996) and 102 Dalmations (2000) films.
Cruella (2021) – Film Review
The film starts with Cruella de Vil being known as Estella, a young girl in school. Estella is smart creative and sometimes she gets in trouble with the school but she tries her best to be nice. She ends being orphaned and broke at 12 years old in London but she soon becomes best friends with two amateur thieves.
10 years later, still in London in the 1970s, we can Estella (Emma Thompson) and her best friends Horace (Paul Walter Hauser) and Jasper (Joel Fry) doing what they can to survive similar to a close-knit family. Estella still dreams about being a fashion designer as a talented creative with drive and ambition.
Through a chance encounter, Estella is noticed by Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson), an intimidating fashion icon known for her strong fashion sense and killer instinct. This gives Estella to see what her life could look like but it also unleashes her dark malevolent side when personal secrets are revealed.
This origin movie focuses on Cruella De Ville, a popular villain in the 101 Dalmations storyline. We see a different side of this villain that once wanted to make a spotted fur coat out of living dalmatian dogs. The attention is shifted from their dalmatian dogs and their owners to a fierce fashion designer trying to find her place in the world.
A young Estella lets the audience see what life could look like for a talented child misunderstood by her peers but still driven to pursue her dream, as a fashion designer. She’s a bit spirited but she tries her best to tame her wild side and settle in a normal child.
The attention placed on details like set design, wardrobe, hair, makeup and music makes it easy for the audience member to feel like they’ve been transported into a different time period. The music choices also make it easier to imagine London in the 1970s during its Punk-rock stage. Both as Estella and as Cruella, we can see her fashion style evolving as she comes closer to being a fashion designer. As Cruella chases her dreams as a fashion designer and comes toe to toe with her antagonistic, you tell that she has ‘the killer instinct for fashion’.
Cruella and Baroness von Hellman have a strong relationship on screen. They start off as a mentor and mentee and you can tell Cruella admires Baroness and her fashion empire whilst the Baroness seems to have some respect for Cruella as an upcoming fashion designer. Later, when they turn into a protagonist and an antagonist within the fashion world. We’re left in suspense wondering, who will emerge as the top fashion designer.
Since fashion is a major element in the movie. It lets us know that Baroness is classy and old-school yet Cruella is more attuned to taking fashion risks and creating a fashion revolution especially as she grows from Estella dressed in dark colours to Cruella with a bolder and riskier fashion sense. It mirrors life because, in innovative fields, there’s always a tug of war between old things versus new innovations.
The cinematography also lets us feel like we’re always in Cruellas’ world and we can tell her emotional arc within a scene. Through her friends, we can also see a younger, softer and vulnerable side before she became the dangerous villain in other films. Cruella has strong visual moments whenever she’s trying to steal the fashion limelight just like the flammable, eye-catching dress seen in the trailer.
The film leaves the audience at a place where it is easier to imagine how Cruella De Vill became so notorious and fashionable.
Worth your time!