Can we just…not?
I’ve written before about my distaste for the grouchy, angsty silliness that seems to have overtaken much of blockbuster cinema lately; but this is something else entirely. A gritty prequel movie charting the life, times, and rise to villainy of…Cruella DeVil? What random word generator created this? What’s happening? Did I slip into an alternative, stupider dimension when I tripped over my cat making coffee this morning? Is this real life?
Okay, here’s the thing about this trailer: in a vacuum, I would probably think this looked like some sort of campy, gothicky fun. Emma Stone is a great actress, she’s got fantastic presence and the ability to bring arch comedy to even more dramatic roles, she’s cool and watchable and she deserves more time on our screens. And, finally, a woman getting the grungy backstory treatment? Sure. Why not. Why not? It’s silly, could be fun, looks visually interesting in the life-action cartoon kind of way.
But we’re not living in a vacuum, we’re living in a world where the Joker movie won Oscars just last year, and where, suddenly, these movies have to be Taken Seriously. Would that we could back to just enjoying these films as the foolish little slices of cinematic indulgences that they clearly are, the handmade, lopsided gifts for fans of the original story who want something more for their money (which sometimes turn out to be wonderful – Maleficent wants to come to the phone, you guys) – would that they had been made and marketed that way, too. But, after Joker (which, in a just world, would have been usurped by Birds of Prey as the only Batman villain solo movie that matters), we’re going to be stuck with this irritating take on villainous backstories that force us to watch directors try to justify these movies’ existences with the same choppy editing, smudged make-up, and sharp cuts between the main character being sad and then being happy because they’re so complicated and layered, you see?
Watching Cruella DeVil get this treatment is particularly surreal. This is a woman whose main claim to fame is skinning puppies for a glamorous jacket; the way this trailer bends over backwards to try and make her seem as though it’s the tragic pressures of a patriarchal system that push her into her urge to act out her villainy is downright comical. “I am woman,” Stone’s DeVil declares, “Here me roar.” Cruella, we’re not mad at you for being a woman, we’re mad at you for trying to flay dogs for fun! Please don’t tell me we’re doing this? Please don’t tell me this is happening? Please don’t tell me we’re doing this as the female answer to the Joker paradigm? A Cruella DeVil origin story, if it needs to exist at all, should be fun, campy, goofy, a little twisted, not Emma Stone streaking through a dark city night weeping on the back of a motorcycle while the dramatic classic tunes swell in the background like this is in any way serious. Surely not. Surely not? At least Joker had some dark versions of the title character to couch itself in; all Cruella has is Glenn Close with a drag wig snorting a full line of cocaine before every take (one assumes. And I mean none of that as a bad thing, by the way).
I refuse to acknowledge that this exists. I just refuse. Everything about this trailer is just so utterly bizarre, so mistimed and misjudged, that I can only hope that the actual release will shift back towards a more naturally goofy tone that Cruella should go after. Am I going to watch this movie when it comes out? If my brain can take it. Which, all things considered, it probably can’t. I hope this trailer is nothing more than a misrepresentation of the actual film that’s attempting to cash in on the Joker audience shares – but if this is anything like what I’m going to get, I don’t think I can take it.
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By Louise MacGregor
(header image via Indiewire)