Tag Archives: Craig Gillespie

Cruella (2021) Review

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Cruella

Time: 134 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Violence
Cast:
Emma Stone as Estella Miller/Cruella de Vil
Emma Thompson as Baroness von Hellman
Joel Fry as Jasper Badun
Paul Walter Hauser as Horace Badun
Emily Beecham as Catherine Miller
Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Anita “Tattletale” Darling
Mark Strong as John
Director: Craig Gillespie

Estella (Emma Stone) is a young and clever grifter who’s determined to make a name for herself in the fashion world. She soon meets a pair of thieves (Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser) who appreciate her appetite for mischief, and together they build a life for themselves on the streets of London. However, when Estella befriends fashion legend Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson), she embraces her wicked side to become the raucous and revenge-bent Cruella.

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Cruella was a movie I wasn’t entirely excited for in the lead up to its release. While I haven’t seen all the live action Disney remakes, generally they’ve felt rather average and not that impressive. However there were a few reasons I was slightly interested for Cruella. One was the cast, which included Emma Stone and Emma Thompson. There is also the fact that it’s an origin story for Cruella de Vil, which although potentially unnecessary, does mean that it’s probably going to do more than just be a repeat of the animated movie’s story beats. Also the trailers looked decent, and hinted at being more than just a replication of the animated movie. Cruella actually surprised me quite a bit and I liked it.

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Cruella was 2 hours and 14 minutes long, despite the fact that the movie is very fast paced, and I was entertained throughout. The plot is rather predictable and familiar (not necessarily in terms of it being a Disney movie), but nonetheless I was interested to see where it would go. Throughout when you’re watching the movie, you might be wondering how this version of Cruella de Vil is supposed to link up with the versions of Cruella de Vil that we are more familiar with. I get the feeling however that this is actually a reimagining of the character, and if that’s the case then I’m entirely on board with that. Even by the end, she’s more of an anti-hero than a full on villain. One way where the two versions of Cruella differ is with regard to the dogs, you don’t need to worry about seeing any puppy/dog killing because there’s none here. There’s even two dogs who are with Estalla/Cruella and the thieves she’s teamed up with, so it is definitely taking a different approach to the character. It is an origin story for Cruella de Vil, and while it does seem a bit unnecessary to bolt a tragic backstory and try to force it in, I was surprisingly rather engaged. One of the things that emerged online about the movie as soon as it came out was a particular moment involving dalmatians in the first 20 minutes, and yes it is rather ridiculous and forced. However it actually works alright in the movie itself, partly because of the tone. Throughout. it does have a rather campy tone, so some of the sillier aspects and issues seem to work alright here, including a flawed story and cheesy dialogue. I’m not certain that I’ve watched the original 101 Dalmatians movie but there were some moments that referred to that film, and they were quite on the nose. It was almost like the filmmakers were contractually obliged to include them. However there weren’t as many of those moments as I thought they would be, nor did they take away from the rest of the story. I feel like by it being an origin story, it actually had freedom to be its own movie (a crime comedy) rather than being restricted to just repeating story beats from a pre-existing film. For those interested, there’s a mid credits scene which hints towards a sequel.

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The cast were among the strongest parts of the movie. First of all is Emma Stone as Estella/Cruella de Vil, who turned out to be a surprisingly great casting choice. Stone humanises her and adds so much to the character, while giving a larger than life performance and is clearly having a great time in the role. Even if you don’t like the rest of the movie, I do think Cruella is worth watching for her alone. There’s also Emma Thompson as The Baroness, and her character does seem very similar to Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada. However it actually sort of works for this movie, and Thompson is great as the film’s scene chewing and hateable villain. The back and forth between her and Stone is very enjoyable to watch. Also really good are Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser as the thieves that are teamed up with Estella/Cruella, and the three play off each other very well. Hauser particularly stands out, especially with his perfect line delivery and comedic timing.

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Cruella also benefits a lot from the energised direction of Craig Gillespie. Performances aside, the stylistic direction elevates the script immensely. The setting of 70s London is beautifully filmed with gorgeous cinematography and has well detailed set designs, it lends itself well to the fashion, music and grimy aesthetic. The wardrobe is fantastic as to be expected, the costumes are absolutely extravagant, and the visual style really showed them off well. The score from Nicholas Britell (who also composed Succession, Vice, Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk, The King and more) is amazing as to be expected from him, and really adds a lot to the film. The soundtrack has a great lineup of songs, even if many of them feel very on the nose and there are too many needle drop moments. On a technical level, really the only aspect that isn’t so great is the CGI, especially the effects used for the dogs.

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One could argue that Cruella is an unnecessary movie, and in a way it is. However I can’t deny that I was enjoying it throughout. The plot is not the best but did enough to have me actually interested to see how things would progress, it’s directed with a very distinct style, and the performances were all great, especially Emma Stone as the titular character. There’s a sequel in talks, and while I’m not sure how it would be possible, I’m not against it. Even if you aren’t such a big fan of the recent live action Disney remakes, I think Cruella is worth checking out.

I, Tonya (2017) Review

Time: 120 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Domestic violence, sexual violence, sex scenes & offensive language
Cast
Margot Robbie as Tonya Harding
Sebastian Stan as Jeff Gillooly
Allison Janney as LaVona Fay Golden
Julianne Nicholson as Diane Rawlinson
Caitlin Carver as Nancy Kerrigan
Bojana Novakovic as Dody Teachman
Paul Walter Hauser as Shawn Eckhardt
Bobby Cannavale as Martin Maddox
Dan Triandiflou as Bob Rawlinson
Director: Craig Gillespie

Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie) rises through the ranks of competitive figure skating only to find disgrace when her husband (Sebastian Stan) tries to eliminate her rival.

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I, Tonya had my interest because of the cast (with Margot Robbie and Sebastian Stan), premise and the trailers. I wasn’t very familiar about Tonya Harding and going into it had a very vague knowledge about the incident with her and Nancy Kerrigan. I was expecting from I, Tonya great performances and I definitely got that. But I didn’t expect this to be one of my favourite films of the year. The style, the story, everything somehow worked together to make a great biopic that surprised me on many levels.

I, Tonya covers more than just the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan incident, it also covers Tonya’s life in chronological order, so we actually get to know her before “the incident” occurs. From start to finish it cuts to many of the characters/people in interview tapes who tell their side of the story, sometimes there are conflicting stories, especially between Tonya and her ex husband Jeff. One of the best strengths that the film has is that it is a dark comedy, it makes the film a lot more entertaining than if it just showed the events play out. The comedy somehow works and works seamlessly, it doesn’t feel forced at all. Some of the comedy comes from just how ridiculous some events were and how stupid many of the people were (particularly Tonya’s bodyguard played by Paul Walter Hauser). However, despite the comedy and entertaining style, it doesn’t hold back on a lot of the darker things that happened. A lot of it is quite hard to watch with Tonya having to deal with things such as abuse from both her mother and her husband, and of course the end of Tonya’s career because of the incident with Nancy Kerrigan. As someone who didn’t know a lot about Tonya Harding, let’s just say that events played out like how I didn’t think they would, so I was invested from start to finish, and barely anything took me out of the movie.

Margot Robbie has already proved herself to be a great actress in the past 5 years but with I, Tonya she has delivered her best work yet, she was absolutely phenomenal as Tonya Harding. Margot really transformed into Tonya and brought her to the big screen, a lot of the time you will probably forget that it’s Margot who’s playing her. While we don’t always agree with what Tonya does, we can understand why she does the things she does. There are particularly some scenes that Margot has in the last act which are some of the best pieces of acting that she’s ever done, particularly two certain moments. This is one of the best performances of the year for sure. Sebastian Stan really surprised me as Tonya’s ex husband Jeff Gillooly. Throughout the majority of the film I actually forgot that it was Sebastian Stan who was playing him. His performance shouldn’t be overlooked. Allison Janney is also incredible as Tonya’s abusive mother, she is a force to be reckoned with and steals every scene that she’s in. Although she has some moments which are funny, on the whole she is at times frightening in the way she acts towards Tonya, she really leaves a strong impact. Other actors like Julianne Nicholson and Paul Walter Hauser were also great and played their part well.

The direction by Craig Gillespie was solid, very stylistic. Some people have accused the film of stealing the style from Martin Scorsese’s many crime movies, often calling it Goodfellas on ice and I can see a lot of similarities and why they would say that. It breaks the fourth wall multiple times, many of the characters at times talk to the camera (especially when it cuts to present day in the interview room scenes) and there is a lot of narration. However, something about it just worked here that I didn’t mind that it was essentially trying to imitate a Scorsese style. The one aspect that didn’t work so well however was the use of music, at times the song choices felt a little on the nose and convenient and it was distracting occasionally. The ice skating scenes themselves were great, some of the ice skating was probably not done by Margot but at least for me, I thought they did a good job hiding that.

I, Tonya manages to bring to the big screen not only the story behind Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan incident, but also Tonya’s life story and it was done so well, better than I thought it would be. The way it was directed and portrayed was great and the performances from everyone, especially from Margot Robbie, Sebastian Stan and Allison Janney were outstanding and some of the best of the year. One of the biggest things I can say about it is that I’m also pretty sure that Gillespie and the cast and crew have redefined who Tonya Harding is, she is no longer known as just the infamous ice-skater who “supposedly” had another skater’s knee bashed in. I, Tonya is one of the best films of the year and shouldn’t be missed.