Dog Movies: Have You Seen Cruella?
Cruella is a 2021 American crime comedy film based on the character Cruella de Vil from Dodie Smith's 1956 novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians. The film is directed by Craig Gillespie with a screenplay by Dana Fox and Tony McNamara, from a story by Aline Brosh McKenna, Kelly Marcel, and Steve Zissis.
Emma Stone stars as the title character, with Emma Thompson, Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser, Emily Beecham, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, and Mark Strong in supporting roles.
Set in London during the punk rock movement of the 1970s, the film revolves around Estella Miller, an aspiring fashion designer, as she explores the path that will lead her to become a notorious up-and-coming fashion designer known as Cruella de Vil.
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101 Dalmatians still makes me feel a little uneasy. Watching the cartoon as a child left me feeling anxious and upset about the puppies and pretty traumatised that a lady could have such a barbaric thought. The more recent re-make softened the blow with the cute pups and the humorous portrayal at times, but when I heard there had been a re-make focussing on the lady herself, I was a little unsure about watching it with my 8-year-old, animal-loving daughter!
Through gritted teeth, I agreed and we set off on our journey to discover how and why Cruella had turned into such a monster wanting to scalp poor defenceless puppies in the name of fashion! Something admittedly I hadn’t asked myself in the original adaptation and actually had piqued my interest to learn what this lady would look like in her youth. It also raised questions as to why we were all so disgusted with this monstrous woman back in the day yet many adults were still very happy wandering the streets with the skin of a poor defenceless mink draped around their shoulders..maybe we are actually a world of Cruella’s without even realising!
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The high-quality production of the movie hits you immediately, beautifully slick and with unusual quirky and super stylish camera work setting the scene. A baby being born, unmistakable in her appearance thanks to the shock of black and white hair!
We then see her as a child with her mother and are shown a very different side to her, most notably when she meets her first Dalmatian. I won’t ruin the story but what I can say is that it isn’t what you may expect. Let’s just say, it robustly supports the theory that dog’s behaviour and temperaments are never to be assumed by their breeds, their behaviour is solely attributed to the way their owner treats them and brings them up. It is a fascinating portrayal and one which draws you in immediately especially when she in turn becomes best friends with an adorable stray dog named Buddy.
We then jump to her as she grows and Emma Stone takes the reigns of this indomitable character. The styling, costume, make-up and acting is sublime and Emma Stone plays a deliciously eccentric version of Cruella who you can’t help but start to love. We then see how the relationship between her and her “henchmen”, Jasper and Horace begins, again, one which shows surprising twists and turns as well as touching moments, which are completely unexpected when comparing them with the bumbling idiots in 101 Dalmatians.
Emma Thompson plays a gloriously evil character, The Baroness, which develops slowly as the film progresses. Her wardrobe is to die for but her manners and morals are slightly less to be desired. The plot line explains a lot about why Cruella may have gone on to become the twisted woman we know but also throws up question marks as to why she continued on this track and turned into such a heartless character when she clearly does have a heart in this adaptation. The biggest surprise in this movie is the shocking revelation that Cruella loves and understands dogs. So why would she then decide to create a coat out of their skin?!
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Overall this movie was super entertaining, stylish and dramatic. It poses questions about nature and nurture for both humans and dogs alike which adds a subtle layer of depth to the experience. The fact no dogs die in the movie was a huge plus for my daughter and she too enjoyed the whole film. Interestingly, she also posed the same question.. Why would she go on to try and kill the dogs? A sequel is already in the making so perhaps that question has been left hanging in the air to point us towards discovering the next chapter of her life.
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