One Hundred and One Dalmatians is not only a classic Disney movie but is the origin of one of Disney’s most iconic villains: Cruella de Vil. So when I first heard we were getting a Cruella film, I wasn’t sure what to think of it. Was this going to be a half-assed live-action film? Or were we going to see this character’s origin and persona in a light we had never seen before? Little did I know I was in for a pleasant surprise. If anything, it brings to life a villain’s origin that is surprisingly refreshing in its own way.
Before she took on the Cruella persona, she was Estella (Emma Stone), an amateur fashion designer who seeks a job in the fashion industry in London. The origin story of her childhood felt a bit forced. It felt like they needed a convenient tragedy to happen to justify why she was who she was. It didn’t flow or line up perfectly as it could have for the origins of a character.
Thankfully, the introduction of Jasper (Joel Fry) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser) restored a better dynamic to the character. As the audience, we know them better as the two men who helped kidnap the dalmatian puppies in One Hundred and One Dalmatians. But in Cruella, we learn about how the two met Estella. It was clever, and for the sake of the movie, it made the most sense.
One thing to note is that Cruella takes place during the 1970s in London during the punk rock era. If there is any point in time to place Cruella’s origins, this was the perfect place to start. I loved being able to immerse myself into the punk scene as she dominates with her fashion inspired by the time. To say the outfits and fashion were stunning would be an understatement. It was edgy, it was different, it was madness and I was here for every moment of it. From the music to the aesthetic, it all fit so well.
From her mannerisms to her voice to her walk, Stone reinvented Cruella de Vil. I will be the first to say that I walked into watching the film with an open mind but cautious because playing someone like Cruella was going to take some patience and talent. Stone had both of these and she executed the role flawlessly. With the help of director Craig Gillespie, she really took what we knew about Cruella and fell into the madness. There wouldn’t be a film to discuss if Stone had not absolutely nailed the character.
The antagonist of the film is the Baroness (Emma Thompson), a high-end fashion designer who Estella aspires to be. Thompson played the Baroness so well I honestly could not imagine the role being given to anyone. She was charming yet intimidating and a force to be reckoned with. The back and forth between the Baroness and Cruella gave this film its uniqueness and its punk aesthetic.
One of the things I liked about this film was it left the room to tell the story we already knew about Cruella, but it also gave a chance to expand this character’s story even more with Stone. It could possibly expand into something more and it’s all thanks to a great start in Cruella.
Even though her origin story felt a bit lazy, it made sense once the film wrapped up. Cruella is the darkest live-action Disney movie we have seen and I am excited to see where Disney will take her story. She may have been born bad and a little mad. But there is no doubt Cruella captured my attention, and Stone’s performance of the iconic villain is one for the books. – Jacqueline Lainez
Cruella is in theaters now.
Starring Emma Stone, Emma Thompson, Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser, and Mark Strong.