Disney’s live action 101 Dalmatians origin film directed by Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya), stars Emma Stone as Estella/Cruella and Emma Thompson as Baroness Von Hellman.
We first see Estella as a precocious child with her single mother. She’s asked to leave school after a number of skirmishes with other children but is left to fend for herself when her mom is killed.
The story continues as Estella is now grown and moved into a rundown flat with two thieves (Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser), She joins them as they stage pick pocket schemes and store thefts. She eventually gets a job at a retail clothing store and she’s thrilled. However instead of being hired for her dream job as fashion designer, she ends up cleaning restrooms.
Estella believes hers dream comes true when the Baroness walks into the store and hires her as one of the low level workers in her fashion empire. After some of her designs are noticed by her boss, she gets to work more closely with her. However, the relationship moves from boss/employee to rivals very quickly.
The Baroness is demanding, vindictive and downright menacing and Estella, who changes her name to Cruella, when she discovers that the Baroness is not just her employer, but an enemy that she has to destroy.
Set in London during the 1970s, the screen is filled with explosions of color and loud music of the day. Music plays during almost every scene. The sets and fashions (costumes by Jenny Beavan) are a feast for the eyes. Whether its a mansion at the top of a cliff or a dingy apartment or an expansive designer headquarters, they’re all detailed and terrific.
After countless costume changes, numerous hairstyles, plenty of drama and 2 and1/4 hours, the back story of how a young girl can grow up to be so evil that she skins puppies to make a coat for herself, is never answered. It’s a stretch, as she owns and loves a dog in the film.