brando’s review published on Letterboxd:
as much as i hate to admit it, i had a hell of a time with this.
yes, there's the tepid corporate cleanliness of the Disney touch, the cynical apolitical appropriation of aesthetics that are inherently political, the arbitrary mandates of any Disney tent pole (this did not need to be 2+ hours; a good 40 minutes could have been shaved off), and the overwrought insufferable "tragic backstory" moralization a lá Joker (which the film is not shy about ripping off in many aspects) is hokey and manufactured. almost all the of the worst aspects of these live action Disney reduxes are expectedly carried over.
but Cruella herself, the star of the show, refuses to not shine.
call me biased because i like Emma Stone, but she really fucking shines here. i know it's Hot Topic #GirlBoss bait but i really can't help it. you can tell that Emma is having a blast with this role and it's hard not to get swept away in it.
(ironically, it's literally exactly like how Joaquin Phoenix's performance carries most of Joker's charm lmao)
it's even better when she plays off the film's primary antagonist, found in Emma Thompson's Baroness. these two play it off sooooo fucking well in the film's Devil Wears Prada but Written By Lemony Snicket plot, and it makes its almost stupidly convoluted revelations actually feel good as payoff.
the structure of the Cruella itself helps a ton. i loved how most of the runtime is split evenly between slick heist stuff and entertaining fashion stuff before both of them merge together. every set piece in this film is fucking dope as fuck, and it's a shame there wasn't more of Cruell herself going on her high society rampage.
probably the most refreshing thing that helps all of these seemingly ridiculous elements of a film work together cohesively is the fresh direction from Gillespie. sure it isn't some formalistic explosion a lá James Wan and Adam Wingard (the current masters of auteuristic pop-populist entertainment while Michael Bay is away), but it's a world's difference from the visual milk toast of Favreau and Ritchie's live action snores.
overall it really is Cruella, in her performance by Emma Stone and, surprisingly, by the solid characterization and fleshed-out persona in the script that really had me really liking this film.
sure, i wish she could have developed differently by the end (it seems they're really half-assing the whole "villain" side of her) because there is definitely a lot of lost potential in the outcome of her arc, but it's fine. i still rooted for her throughout the film unironically and that's noteworthy in of itself.
ultimately it's the best version of girlboss punk Joker that Disney could have made, and that's a miracle in of itself. it also makes me feel guilty for buying into it but you know what, whatever. i'd rather have a Cruella 2 than another Infinity War.
PS: also the fucking costume design fucking SLAYS. every outfit in this is fucking incredible and it was an absolute joy seeing Emma Stone just fucking rock all of them holy shit. even all the supporting characters have hella drip and it's just porn for me ugh i wanna watch it all again just for the costume design i'm serious