‘Cruella’ Redefined Villainy


Cruella the Movie

Haley Wong, Scoop Writer

What does it mean to be evil? “Cruella,” publicly released on Disney+ on August 27th, answers just that. Perfect for movie night, this film explores a story previously left untold.

Many are familiar with the classic story of Cruella DeVille, which focuses on the dogs Pongo and Missis as their puppies are targeted by Cruella DeVille, a ruthless woman who shamelessly transforms Dalmatians into coats. DeVille’s first public appearance was in Dodie Smith’s 1956 novel “The Hundred and One Dalmatians,” where she was portrayed as simply cruel and masochistic. Since then, the storyline has been altered into many different media formats, including a TV show, live action film and even a musical! It’s safe to say that Cruella’s franchise remains a household name to this day. 

While Smith’s book centered around the dalmations themselves, this modern adaptation stars Estella, the identity that Cruella begins with before turning to villainy. 

From very early in her life, Estella (Emma Stone) is the odd one out. Her community instantly rejects her because of her natural hair, which is half white and half black. Plus, her argumentative and hot-headed nature sets her apart from the mild-mannered London crowd she is surrounded by. Noticing this, Estella’s mother (Emily Beecham) does her best to stifle her daughter’s impertinent tendencies. She gives a name to the side of Estella that has those inclinations, calling this alter ego “Cruella.” As Estella starts in a new school, she tells Estella to say goodbye to Cruella, trying to contain her daughter’s misbehavior. No matter how hard she tries, Estella is unable to adhere to her mother’s wishes. This makes her the enemy of many, even from a young age.

After a dramatic incident that leaves Estella’s mother dead, Estella blames herself. The one person who supported her no matter what is now gone forever and she is at fault. In deep despair, she runs away from home. While on the run, she meets two boys, Jasper (Joel Fry) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser). They recruit her into their crew of pickpocketing misfits. The three of them quickly fall into rhythm as friends, and Estella is able to find a second family within the two of them. 

Ten years go by, and the trio still relies on thievery to get by. This has grown old for Estella, whose ambitions of being a fashion designer have surpassed the bounds of her current reality. As a result of Jasper’s thoughtful intervention, Estella is hired for a job at a local boutique, thus jump-starting her career in the clothing industry. She climbs the ladder of success, eventually landing a job for the Baroness (Emma Thompson), a legendary but ruthless fashion designer. 

After learning a dark truth about her employer, Estella vows to be the downfall of the Baroness, no matter what it takes. Disguising herself as “Cruella,” she lands in a vicious but extravagant rivalry with the Baroness. This competition forces Estella to confront everything she knows about herself and the world around her. After all, who is she to draw the line between good and evil? More importantly, when she falls out of pace with who she was taught to be, will she ever find her way back?

Source: NBC News

There is a certain level of anticipation ensured when a piece like “Cruella” that has been advertised so heavily. I was looking forward to an electrifying storyline that shed light on Estella’s humanity. 

One thing for certain is that this movie hooks viewers from the very beginning. The elegance and ambiance is incredibly captivating and effectively sets the tone. “Cruella” brilliantly encompasses all the tell tale signs of a Disney movie while bringing a fresh perspective to the screen. Frequent plot twists kept viewers engaged. 

Emma Stone’s voice overs did not contain the excessive bitterness that would have  spoiled the movie. Instead, her tone was introspective and delightfully sarcastic. 

Stone’s performance was a pleasant surprise. Seeing her versatility as an actress was enjoyable, since this was a character type different from anything else she has done in the past. She flawlessly captured the intricate mysteries of coming of age, while breathing new life into Cruella’s background.

One of my favorite aspects of the movie is the music choice. The songs align with the time period perfectly and sharpen the characterization.

Source: Architectural Digest

Unfortunately, the movie was bound to have a few downfalls. My biggest complaint is that the idea of “Cruella” itself is far-fetched. As soon as the producers settled on this as a project, they were taking on a task that’s nearly impossible: giving Cruella a backstory that humanizes her without contradicting the source material. I believe that this doesn’t serve as a structurally sound prequel, as it struggles to find an ending that connects well to the events that follow. 

Furthermore, if you’re in the mind for carefully constructed suspense, the plot twists will disappoint you. Although frequent, the twists are not fun to figure out. 

These flaws are to be expected of a film targeted towards children, but it may still let down viewers on the analytical side. 

In the end, “Cruella” is extravagant, distinct, sensational and a treat to watch.