Audiences will know Cruella de Vil as the Dalmatian puppy-napper with a dog fur obsession, an age-old villain made iconic by Glenn Close’s wickedly devious, highly fashionable portrayal in 1996’s 101 Dalmatians. But surely this villain wasn’t born evil!? Craig Gillespie’s origin story is akin to the Joker, but with that Disney touch of candy. This new story ventures a theory which reveals the straw that broke the puppy’s back, giving birth to Disney’s most villainess villain.
Predominately set during the rebel-rousing ’70s in the hip-swinging heart of a highly fashionable London, to get to know the adult Cruella (Emma Stone), we have to get to know the child Estella (Tipper Seifert-Cleveland) first. For Estella is the birth name of our antagonist and watching her mother fall to her death helped by a trio of charging Dalmatians, leaving her an orphan and homeless builds on the ambitious and devious adult she becomes.
Over the course of an overly long 134 minutes, parallels between ‘Oliver’ and ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ looms over the stormy clouds of an anti-establishment London. Growing up on the streets of London alongside her friends Jasper (Joel Fry) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser), the trio embark on petty crimes to survive while Estelle puts her designer skills to good use to create disguises. That is until; she lands herself a job at Liberty’s of London and is quickly spotted for her talent by the haughty taught legendary designer The Baroness – played by a fantastically malevolent Emma Thompson.
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The third main character in this film has to be the extravagant costumes that grace nearly every other scene. When Cruella restyles herself, leaving Estella behind, she awakens her Vivienne Westwood-Esque passion for the cyberpunk look. From the traditional black and white we all associate with Cruella, a splash of red is thrown in there to represent her growing rebellion. In contrast, Emma Thompson’s style is more of the elegant with an over restricted element that’s on a level to her own stubbornness in retaining her style crown.
For a Disney flick, this can get pretty dark. After upstaging the Baroness at her own Black and White Ball where Cruella sets fire to her own costume to reveal a stunning little red number, the Baroness proves who the real bad guy is by attempting to burn Cruella alive. Her wickedness is relentless. As the war rages between both designers revealing twists that, quite frankly, are no real surprise but paint an empathetic picture of a character we all thought we knew.
Considering Gillespie and the writers Dana Fox and Tony McNamara had no real backstory to work from, the creation of this very 20th-century antagonist has stylishly been given a 21st-century makeover with a few evolved Disney trappings, they’ve barked up the right tree breathing life back into the mother of all transgressors.
Cruella hits cinemas May 28th.