“Cruella”, on W9: a new lease of life for the iconic Disney villain

Whether we shuddered as a child at 101 Dalmatians (1961) or its two live-action adaptations from 1996 and 2001, Cruella de Vil is undoubtedly the most charismatic Disney villain

“Cruella”, on W9: a new lease of life for the iconic Disney villain

Whether we shuddered as a child at 101 Dalmatians (1961) or its two live-action adaptations from 1996 and 2001, Cruella de Vil is undoubtedly the most charismatic Disney villain. The memory of Glenn Close has a lot to do with it: the actress gave an impeccably poisonous performance, embodying in an unforgettable way this evil woman obsessed with fur.

Other customs, another era, fur no longer has a place. After Maleficent, Disney continues the rehabilitation of its most iconic villains. A widespread phenomenon: in 2019, it was the origin of the Joker that was probed by Todd Phillips, as a way of meeting the expectations of the public whose demands have been somewhat reversed. The mythical villains offer themselves a cinematic psychoanalysis which provokes general empathy. The line between good and bad is blurring, and the recipe hits the mark.

Desire for revenge

A recipe perfectly respected in this prequel dedicated to Cruella, her young years. The year is 1970, in London shaken by the explosion of the punk movement. Young Estrella (Emma Stone) lost her mother in tragic circumstances. Accompanied by her two sidekicks, Horace and Jasper, she survives thanks to theft, but dreams of making a name for herself in fashion. She accepts a job as a cleaner in a department store, hoping to climb the ladder.

Her creations catch the eye of a great fashion figure, Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson), haughty and perfectly foul. Hired as a stylist, Estrella gains the latter's trust. At the turn of a revelation, letting herself be carried away by a desire for revenge, she becomes Cruella: the two women engage in battle, their creations respond to each other, outbidding each other. The film transforms into a splendid fashion show.

Craig Gillespie (director of the acclaimed I, Tonya in 2017) reconnects with old school know-how: the graphic power of the sets and costumes, a tortuous but original screenplay, co-written by the screenwriter of The Devil Wears Prada – including Cruella looks like a remake for young audiences. A (sometimes too) vigorous staging, built around the power of Cruella's appearance, inspired by the haughty manners of the American actress Tallulah Bankhead – to whom the director offers an elegant nod.

A film to the glory of actresses, for actresses and carried by them. A film that honors the charisma of the duo of protagonists, in particular the brilliant Emma Stone, who has fun with the greed of a little girl too happy to be able to play the villain.