Cruella: Disney Movie Reimagines Queen of Cruel

Culture

Note: Minor spoiler alerts.

Cruella DeVil is back, but this time with a wicked sense of fashion and her own origin story. Disney’s new twist on 101 Dalmatians is sure to be a hit among Disney fans and movie-goers alike. Starring Emma Stone, Cruella tells the story of the classic villain through the eyes of a wannabe fashion designer and finally gives the queen of cruel her spot in the limelight.

Estella Miller (Tipper Seifert-Cleveland) is born sharp and creative with an impressive talent for fashion, but her cruel edge prompts her mother Catherine (Emily Beecham) to nickname her Cruella. Throughout her young life, Estella tries to tame Cruella and be the sweet girl her mother wants her to be, but her hunger for trouble often gets the best of her, especially because her unique split hair-do and refusal to be disrespected doesn’t exactly make it easy for her to fit in. Eventually, Estella’s antics get her kicked out of school, and she and Catherine head to London to make a new life.

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Their trip is cut short, however, when Estella witnesses a tragedy that orphans her and forces her to start over alone. In London, she meets pick-pockets Jasper (Joel Fry) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser) who become her new family as the three of them grow up. Estella continues to design fashion for the trio that steals things for a living, but she feels like she is meant for something more. An interesting turn of events finds Estella working at the place of her dreams: a prestigious London fashion house run by Baroness Von Hellman (Emma Thompson). Her out-of-the-box thinking lands her a job working as both a designer and close assistant for the Baroness, and a shocking realization soon turns the spunky stylist rogue and releases Cruella DeVil into the fashion world.

The Baroness is no match for Cruella who is cunning and bold in her designs and soon makes a well-known name for herself. The talented designer’s splash into the fashion world is heavily publicized but also shrouded in mystery as very few people know Cruella lives a double life; Estella by day, Cruella by night. While much of this may sound unfamiliar, the movie is still reflective of 101 Dalmatians. It includes enough elements from the original to be nostalgic while also fluffing out Cruella with motives and a backstory that gives the villain the spotlight she deserves.

And in many ways, the more modern twist on the original is what makes it so good. The movie artfully combines wit, glamour, and a touch of Cruella’s signature evil that culminates in a deliciously exciting movie that is sure to leave you with enough confidence and inspiration to get out of the theater (or living room) feeling like you run the world.

Not convinced? Imagine you’re Emma Stone. A power-hungry fashion designer in a killer look on a revenge trip is secretly every girl’s dream. Emma Stone is simply brilliant in her role as Cruella, and the supporting characters are cast perfectly, even if Cruella’s partners in crime are slightly underdeveloped. My personal favorite is Artie who plays the eccentric vintage shop owner in a fashionable street in London. His role as Cruella’s friend and one of her biggest supporters is played phenomenally by John McCrea. He’s just the voice the film needs, and he adds major appeal, with some comedic quips, to Cruella and the movie’s plot.

There are other great voices in the movie as well, even though the handful of token minorities are not enough for Disney to boast about inclusivity. Even the narcissistic Baroness is entertaining; the play-out of the bad-guy character is expected, but Emma Thompson adds special touches to the script that makes the former fashion queen oddly alluring.

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My only critique besides a lack of representation and a moderately predictable plotline is that to keep some cruelty the 101 Dalmatian's villain is so famous for, Disney made Stone’s Cruella somewhat unlikeable at moments. Her shift from Estella to Cruella is dramatic and happens seemingly overnight, and her newfound evil is used against her closest companions as she revels in the power she has gained. Although the rift between the group is repaired later on, it’s lacking in substance and leaves the audience a bit unsatisfied.

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Despite these drawbacks, Cruella still has a lot going on for it. Of course, we have to talk about the fashion in the movie. Fashion is not only a theme in Cruella, but it also plays a central role in Cruella’s life and her transformation from Estella to the villain we all know and love. The movie is a magical dive into London’s 1970s fashion and punk-rock movement that sets the stage for many of Cruella’s memorable looks. With a keen eye for style, Estella impresses the Baroness and incorporates her fresh perspective into the designs she makes. The Baroness receives all the credit for each collection Estella creates, but she still has some tricks up her sleeve for when she makes her appearances as Cruella, and every time, these looks are awe-inspiring.

Even if you aren’t interested in fashion, you can’t help but be amazed by Cruella’s genius and the costume department’s knack for surprising attire. There were more than 45 costumes for Emma Stone in the movie, according to an InStyle Article, which is a major upgrade from the animated black dress and puffy fur overcoat. 45 may seem like a lot to keep up with, but they are all gorgeous representations of Cruella’s personality and the punk rock times.

Here are some of the best fashion moments from the movie:

1. First Appearance

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This is by far one of the best scenes in the movie. Estella makes her very first appearance as Cruella at the Baroness’s black and white ball wearing a white cloak, and, in very Hunger Games-esque fashion, burns it off to reveal a sleek red dress. To me, this really represents her shift from a misfit trying to suppress her true self to a chic rebel challenging the world and its expectations. This is also the first of many times when Cruella directly challenges her boss, and she makes quite the impression with her daring color choices and presentation in this scene.

2. Streetwear

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All the other fashion moments in this top-five list are the showstopper pieces she uses to make her grand appearances. They are undoubtedly breathless, but we can’t forget about the everyday streetwear that makes Cruella exceptionally fashionable. In her transition from Estella to Cruella, we see her really embracing the feisty personality and distinctive hair that people had once judged or told her to tone down. Often dressed in black and adjourned with bold accessories, Cruella makes her debut with these styles, and they continue to be staples of her character.

3. Biker

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Cruella’s punk biker outfit is one of my favorites. She soon becomes known for crashing Baroness runways, parties, and shows in epic fashion, and for allowing her wardrobe to speak for itself. In this scene, she enters a runway show on a motorcycle and gets off to stare down at the crowd with the words “the future” painted on her face. She leaves as quickly as she comes, but her edgy leather jacket and sparkly pants make for a truly unforgettable look.

4. Garbage Truck

In another pop-up show-crasher scene, Cruella shows up in a garbage truck wearing a dress with dozens of old garments stitched to it so that it flows out behind her when she departs on the back of the same truck. We can only assume that these clothes are previous creations of the Baroness and that with the garbage truck, she is making a statement regarding the villainous woman. It’s a peculiar sight, but it does well amongst the crowd; compared to the run-of-the-mill work of the Baroness, Cruella’s shows are dazzling and fiery and keep the audience in both the movie and behind the screen on their toes.

5. Dalmatians

You can’t have a movie about Cruella without the iconic dalmatians! There may not be 101 of them, but they are still very present in Cruella. In the new movie, it is the Baroness that is obsessed with dalmatians, not Cruella. But the queen of mean is determined to exploit anything the Baroness cares about in her quest for revenge, including her three beloved vicious dalmatians. Declaring that people must have a villain to believe in, Cruella sews a spotted dress for a rock concert they put on (starring Artie, Jasper, and Horace, of course) that stirs rumors about how she killed the dogs to complete the look (don’t worry, she didn’t). Once again, it is a statement against the Baroness that effectively draws attention to her. On a deeper level, the dogs play a pivotal role in defining her fashion sense and power, as well as highlighting the growth we see in Cruella from the beginning to end.

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Disney’s Cruella is a long one, clocking in at 2 hours and 14 minutes, but Emma Stone’s portrayal of the cruelest villain is definitely worth it. Although there were a few minor issues with the movie, I would highly recommend spending an afternoon watching it. With fantastic characters, a captivating plot, and an enchanting set, Cruella should give Disney more reason to continue shining a light on the villains that are often left behind in their own demise.

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Grace McClung
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Grace McClung is a junior at South High School in Denver, Colorado. Other than writing, she enjoys swimming, running, and spending time with friends and family.