Impostor syndrome is easy to experience, no matter what race, age, or class you are. I myself have fallen into that realm of thought before, but try hard to not feel overtaken by it. However, I often wonder if non-human entities, such as movie characters, could suffer from impostor syndrome in a way that is relatable and compelling. There’s one film I’ve found that oozes imposter syndrome-like behavior like no other: “Cruella.”
“Cruella” is another spin-off of a Disney classic, similar to “Maleficent,” in which we now follow the classic villain who, in comparison to their unabashedly villainous behavior in the original, is portrayed as simply “misunderstood.” In this film, little orphan Estella (Tipper Seifert-Cleveland) escapes to London after her mother is killed.. In London, she’s introduced to pickpockets Horace (Paul Walter Hauser) and Gasper (Joel Fry), and they spend their time stealing any valuables they can find. As an adult, Estella (Emma Stone) aspires to become a fashion designer, but starts working as a disrespected cleaner at one of the Baroness’ (Emma Thompson) stores. After drunkenly altering the store’s mannequins in the display window, Estella gains the attention of the Baroness, leading to a coveted designer job. But once Estella discovers that the Baroness killed her mother, Estella’s quest for revenge ultimately brings about her descent into the character that is Cruella.
TELEGRAM MESSAGE Date: 20 March, 2022
Dear Director Craig Gillepsie,
YOU ARE NOT SCORSESE! STOP PRETENDING TO HAVE A SENSE OF STYLE!
Jotham Vega 2:00pm
This note really needs to be sent to the director, whose track record is making films that no matter their critical reception, are immediately forgotten when you see his name in the end credits. For example, I’ve never seen “I, Tonya” in full, even though I know it won Oscars. But that film seems to only be held by the absurdity of the real story and by Margot Robbie and Allison Janney’s performances, not any efforts on the director’s part. So, when he tries to imitate a Martin Scorsese film with this prequel, it’s very obvious. When I say Scorsese-inspired, I don’t mean anything similar to the works of early Paul Thomas Anderson or Spike Lee — instead, I see in Gillespie’s directorial choices this terrible plagiarism that could get you expelled from every school in the world.
The plagiarism starts off with this incessant repetition of needle drops that could have easily come from a YouTube playlist titled “60s/70s Greatest Hits.” It just keeps playing popular songs from those decades without really seeming to care if any track truly enhances the scene. Gillespie also includes an extremely offensive cover of “Come Together,” which insults me more as a Beatles fan. Then, there is the hyperactive camerawork and editing, which Gillespie seems to use in order to compensate for the shallowness of the story. In direct comparison, Scorsese uses these same tricks to set the tone of his confession-piece films like “Goodfellas” or “The Wolf of Wall Street.” “Cruella” also has an obscene character as the protagonist, but by portraying Cruella as the good guy of the story, the plot reads as just another “feminist” revenge film that pretends to empower women. If that’s the pitch, why choose a character who goes on to skin puppies for clothing?
The pacing is amazingly distorted, even for a soulless cash grab. I had already seen the film on Disney+ with my sisters prior to rewatching it for this review, and I remember that during the scene where Cruella and the Baroness meet for the first time, I paused to use the bathroom. When I noticed that there was still an hour left, I legitimately yelled, “Oh, my god.”
Even the performances aren’t that memorable. It was clear that Disney wanted Emma Stone to be as award winning as Joaquin Phoenix was in “Joker,” but didn’t get anything as interesting or memorable. Emma Thompson has been making a career out of playing women who seem to have a stick up their butt , making her static and boring. Similar to Thompson, Mark Strong plays the same stone-faced brute he plays in every film. The characters of Horace and Gasper are also nowhere near as hilarious as they were in the 1961 original.
It continues to surprise me how many times people laugh at the terrible jokes in the film, without realizing how fake the film is. How is it that, in a world where people are more aware of identity and mental health, people don’t notice when a film tries peddle itself off as unique when it’s really trying to hide it’s own ignorance?