(If this is your first time on this blog, I ask you to read my About page first! Thanks!)
With the Disney remakes still going strong and the Disney villains getting their own films, someone figured it was about time for Cruella de Vil to get her own film…again. If you forgot that Glenn Close played the Dalmatian-hating villain in 101 Dalmatians and 102 Dalmatians, here’s a brand-new film with Emma Stone playing the Dalmatian-hating villain who doesn’t hate Dalmatians, for some reason. Directed by Craig Gillespie, this is Disney’s Cruella!
And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!
The film begins with a young girl of bicolored hair (black and white) named Estella. Her mother, Catherine, played by Emily Beecham, simply adores her and does her best to raise Estella to be a decent, easygoing human being. However Estella’s rebellious and disobedient nature often rises up to the surface.
Soon enough, Estella is expelled from her school and she and her mother have to move elsewhere. She is sincerely sorry for what she’s done and promises her mother to keep her inner “Cruella” in check, so to speak. As they drive through the night, Catherine makes a stop at a fancy mansion atop a cliff and instructs Estella to remain in the car.
Too excited to stay put, Estella explores the mansion without her mother’s knowledge and witnesses a fashion ball of sorts taking place. Unfortunately she’s discovered and chased by three Dalmatians out into the back by the cliffside. There she finds Catherine speaking with a woman whom she doesn’t recognize. As Estella hides from the Dalmatians, they run past her and into Catherine pushing her off the cliffside to her death in the waters below.
Horrified by this, Estella runs away before the party members can find her and ends up in London falling asleep by a fountain. When she awakes the next day, she meets two young boys, Jasper and Horace, who are con artists and pickpockets. They take a liking to Estella, bring her back to their secret hideout, and allow her to join them in their thieving schemes.
The years pass and while Estella, now played by Emma Stone with dyed red hair, enjoys conducting con jobs with Jasper and Horace, her biggest dream would be to be a fashion designer. To help her make this dream come true, Jasper, now played by Joel Fry, gets Estella a job at a fashion department store. It’s only a janitorial position, but it’s a start. She uses her newfound position to offer her design ideas to her manager, but they’re always rebuffed. One night while drunk, she reorganizes the display window creating a display that screams chaos, wildness, and overall debasement.
The next day, her manager is shocked at the display and is about to fire Estella when in walks the well-known fashion designer known as The Baroness, played by Emma Thompson. Powerful, fierce, unwavering, and ruthless, the Baroness is admired by everyone, including Estella. The Baroness demands to know who is responsible for the display in the window and when she finds out that it’s Estella, she surprisingly offers her a job at her fashion house. It turns out she loves Estella’s visions and Estella is ecstatic that her dreams of being a designer are finally coming true!
While working there, Estella quickly becomes a favorite of the Baroness’ due to her incredible fashion ideas and willingness to perform any task. Estella learns how to be on the Baroness’ good side and protect herself from the cutthroat criticisms she dishes out to others.
One day Estella notices a necklace dangling from the Baroness’ neck and recognizes it as belonging to her mother. She inquires about it and the Baroness tells her that the necklace was stolen by a former employee of hers who came to see her at her mansion years ago seeking financial help to care for her child and then died after falling off the cliff. Estella realizes that it was the Baroness’ mansion that they visited when she was younger. The utter disgust with which the Baroness talks about her mother fires up something in Estella’s heart. She wants to steal the necklace back from the Baroness and hatches a plan with Jasper and Horace, now played by Paul Walter Hauser.
The plan is to break in the mansion during the Baroness’ next fashion ball and steal the necklace from her safe. Jasper will hack the security cameras, Horace will pretend to be an exterminator and break into the safe, and Estella will provide a distraction by pretending to be a fashion diva named Cruella.
The Baroness feels both impressed and threatened by Cruella. However the heist doesn’t go as planned as the necklace isn’t locked away in the safe. Rather it’s around the Baroness’ neck. Cruella manages to swipe the necklace without the Baroness knowing and hands it to her pet dog to run away with. When the Baroness realizes that her necklace has been stolen and in the mouth of a dog, she blows a dog whistle summoning her three Dalmatians after the dog.
It’s now when Estella realizes that her mother didn’t die due to an accident; it was deliberate! The Baroness blew her dog whistle that day as well summoning the Dalmatians to send Catherine over the cliff.
Jasper, Horace, and Estella run away in the chaos of the event without the necklace as it has been swallowed by one of the Dalmatians. Estella now has a brand new plan: get revenge on the Baroness for murdering her mother! She now dons her Cruella persona fulltime and begins to boss Jasper and Horace around. Neither like it, but they obey as they care about Estella. They kidnap the Dalmatians from a pet spa hoping that sooner or later, the necklace will be pooped out by one of them.
Meanwhile Cruella does all she can to ruin the Baroness’ life. She shows her up at events around the city with the help of a gossip columnist, Anita, played by Kirby Howell-Baptiste, who grants her the tabloid exposure she needs. During the day, she continues to work for the Baroness as Estella and uses her position to sabotage the Baroness’ creations.
One night Cruella returns home a bit drunk after a good night of upstaging the Baroness.
She finds the Baroness there waiting for her. She’s realized that Cruella is actually Estella, a suspicion she’s had for a while, and has arrived with her goons. They tie Jasper and Horace up and send them to prison while they tie Cruella up and set fire to her place leaving her to die.
Cruella is dead as far as anyone knows, but in reality, she’s very much alive. She awakes in a strange house and realizes that it’s the house of the Baroness’ valet, John, played by Mark Strong. John explains that he saved Cruella from the burning inferno and brought her to his house safe and sound. He also gives her the necklace which has been um…sanitized and shows her that it has a key at the end of it which opens a small chest in his possession. In the box are birth certificates proving that Estella is actually the daughter of the Baroness!
The Baroness, being as narcissistic as she is, never wanted a child and ordered John to kill the baby. Instead he gave the baby to one of the maids, Catherine, and that’s how Catherine ended up raising Estella.
This final twist re-invigorates Cruella who wants revenge once and for all on her birth mother! She rescues Jasper and Horace from prison apologizing to them for the way she’s treated them and they hatch their final scheme at the next fashion ball of the Baroness’. They infiltrate the invitations to the ball informing all the guests to dress in black and white, a sight that taunts the Baroness when she sees it.
The Baroness then finds Estella outside by the cliff and approaches her, surprised that she isn’t dead. Estella reveals to the Baroness that she is the Baroness’ daughter which also shocks the Baroness. The Baroness realizes that’s why she liked Estella so much, because she could see herself in her. She goes in for a hug, but then pushes Estella off the cliff to fall to her death like Catherine did all those years ago.
This time however Jasper, Horace, and John have gathered all the guests outside who witnessed the murderous act of the Baroness’. She tries to plead innocence by convincing everyone that Estella jumped, but to no avail. She’s arrested and Estella survives the fall having worn a secret parachute. As she is the Baroness’ daughter, she is the rightful heir to the mansion and moves in with Jasper and Horace. She’s fully embraced her Cruella persona leaving her Estella persona to sleep with the fishes.
And that was Cruella! I feel it lacks focus. First, it starts out as a story of following her dreams. Then it becomes a necklace heist story with a Cinderella-esque twist. Then it becomes a revenge plot against the woman who killed her mother. Then it becomes a revenge plot against her actual mother. I just felt they were going from one thing to the next plotwise. And I think that’s what makes this film way longer than it should be.
The acting is great though with both Emmas spectacular at making you hate their characters! The only performance I wasn’t fond of was Kirby Howell-Baptiste’s. Also Cruella is perceived as a dog lover in this film rather than a dog killer. I know that was probably the point but it just seems to go against the character of Cruella de Vil.
If any of this interests you, you may enjoy the film. Otherwise you may just have issues with it like I did.
So, my final score for this film is 21/35 = 60% (D-) !
The next review will be posted on February 15, 2022.