Austin Burke’s review published on Letterboxd:
Set in 1970s London amidst the punk rock revolution, this film follows a young grifter named Estella, a clever and creative girl determined to make a name for herself with her designs. Her relationship with The Baroness sets in motion a course of events and revelations that will cause Estella to embrace her wicked side and become the raucous, fashionable, and revenge-bent Cruella.
Emma Stone is the sole reason why I had any anticipation going into this film. The style of it looked different, but these films tend to cause a bit more division than they should, and that always makes me a bit less excited. Regardless, this cast is actually quite spectacular, and our Director has done great work in the past. Craig Gillespie directed one of my favorites from 2017, I, Tonya. Cruella is a film that progressively got better as it went, and it started to prove that Disney can take risks with films like this. Not only is the film stylish and different, but the story makes some decisions that will not feel predictable. It is all quite refreshing.
I do not personally have a strong attachment to the lore of Cruella, so I don’t mind this film making her a bit more sympathetic. I also see it as the origin of a brand new version of this character that may not go down the same path as the old version. It is easy to see why this will throw fans off, but it does not impact me. Beyond that, my main criticism is that the film goes on too long and feels a tad repetitive in the third act. Shortening this runtime could have made it feel more concrete. The plot itself is surprisingly emotional, as Cruella has to go through a lot to get to where she wants to be. Her relationship with her two henchmen is a clear highlight, as it has to be the one of the best parts of the film.
Paul Walter Hauser crushes his role, as his injection of humor felt so natural. Emma Stone is as good as expected, but she manages to go far beyond what I anticipated with her villainous side. Her back and forth with Thompson makes it feel as if they were born to play opposite of each other, and their banter-filled relationship brings out some of the best performances of the year. The ultimate positive to point out is the feel of this film. It has this flair to it that keeps you wanting more, and the editing is a surprising standout. There is a montage that shows Stone wearing various outfits, and it was just a blast. It does end up following a bit of a cliché formula towards the end, but that takes nothing away from the fun had prior to that. Cruella is definitely worth a watch.
🔙A Quiet Place Part II