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Photo of Emma Stone in Cruella // courtesy imdb.

Battle of the Cruellas: Who puts the ‘evil’ in ‘Deville’?

By Vanessa Carter, July 14 2021—

As we return to the thrill of going to the theatre and sitting in the comfort of reclining chairs, the first movie we see should be one that made the 15-month long wait worth it. Sure, we could pay $35.99 on Disney+ or other streaming services for brand-new releases, but it’s nowhere near the magic of 3D and the big-screen experience. 

Cruella is just that — the first movie you should see in theatres to make up for all the lost time of not watching anything outside of your living room. This film is everything that Solo wishes it could be in the world of Disney prequels. The soundtrack, the costumes and the elements of character development make it one of Disney’s best recent live-action film and also one of the most phenomenal movies I have seen in a while. 

When I heard that Emma Stone was cast in the title role of Cruella, I wasn’t surprised but a bit indifferent and for one reason — anytime I see an A-list actor or actress cast in a big role, I find it hard to see the movie character as anything but the actor or the actress themselves wearing a costume unless they can blend themselves in. For that reason, I thought it would have been nice to cast a newcomer or a lesser-known actress who could use this role as a stepping stone in their career and prove themselves to the world.

But as soon as the movie started and Stone began narrating the intro as Cruella, I could tell she had completely immersed herself in the role and embraced true Cruella fashion. Her mannerisms, accent and style told the story, especially during a certain monologue delivered near the end of the film. I found myself cheering for her along her journey of working hard and making a name for herself in the fashion world.

Throughout the movie, I couldn’t help but notice many similarities and differences between Emma Stone’s take on Cruella and Glenn Close’s iconic performance of Cruella in the 1996 live-action 101 Dalmatians. For this article, I’ll be focusing on the categories of costume, personality and attitude towards supporting characters. 

Looking at the costumes in Cruella, they went by the time setting of the movie, which was the mid-1970s in London. This consisted of dark, heavy makeup and a grunge style that went in accordance with the rock era of that time. Though no furs were worn by Stone during the movie, her character’s passion for animal print and iconic black and white outfits were still present and it gave us a look into the essence of young Cruella. 

Meanwhile, Close’s Cruella carried a style very similar to the original cartoon 101 Dalmatians. She wore tons of fur coats and openly expressed her obsession with skinning animals for this purpose, all with her red cigarette pipe in hand. Her outfits were more classic and timeless and I imagine they would still be in style today — with faux fur of course. While she followed the iconic black and white colour pallet, she also mixed in a few browns into her looks, adding to her timeless fashion. 

As for the personalities of both Cruellas, Cruella focuses on her character development and how getting into frequent trouble as a child and being an orphan shaped her into the person she is as a villain, leading us to see major conflicts within herself. Meanwhile, 101 Dalmatians only presents Cruella as we know her from the cartoon film, where she goes to great lengths to collect all of the dalmatians in town. 

When I was a child, I always remembered Close’s terrifying laugh, which is why I was a bit disappointed when Stone’s version wasn’t as menacing — it was only done once with a series of echoes in an attempt to make it more dramatic. That being said, I did enjoy seeing an easter egg in Cruella as the inspiration for Close’s iconic laugh. As Cruella and her friends try to rob valuable items from a room in the hotel they work in, the TV shows an old film with a woman laughing the same way Close does in 101 Dalmatians. Gotta love classic foreshadowing. 

Examining the way they acknowledge the supporting characters in the movie is also quite similar. In both movies, it’s Cruella’s world with everyone else living in it and she makes sure they know that. In Cruella, we witness how the lifelong friendship came to be between her henchmen, Jasper and Horace, when they lived together as orphans. This puts Cruella in a position to be fond of them and consider their feelings, even when they accuse her that she doesn’t. In 101 Dalmatians, Close’s Cruella does not seem at all attached to Jasper and Horace — they are merely there to drive her around and capture the dogs. Perhaps over time Cruella let go of her past self and built a successful life for herself, no matter the cost. 

Even with all of these comparisons, both Cruellas are phenomenal in their own way. While many argue that the newest Disney remakes are unnecessary, I feel that Cruella is definitely one that deserves praise due to the exquisite character development providing insight into one of Disney’s iconic villains. Not to mention the amazing soundtrack, which was the cherry on top of the whole movie. I will definitely be watching it at least a dozen times again when it is released on Disney+ and I can’t wait to hear how much others like this movie as well. 

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