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Disney knocks it out of the park with 2021's Cruella, a handsomely mounted, live-action re-imagining of one of its most famous animated characters, that rivets from start to finish thanks to spectacular production values, meticulously detailed direction, and a pair of dazzling performances from two Oscar winning actresses named Emma.

The villainess from the classic Disney animated feature 101 Dalmatians is given a three dimensional re-imaging that follows a young girl named Estella from her troubled childhood to a period of petty thievery that eventually leads to a a job working for a legendary fashion designer named The Baroness with whom a connection to the past and a present rivalry are established

First of all, it's not necessary to have seen any of the Dalmatians movies to appreciate what is happening here. In the style of Joaquin Phoneix's Joker, the character has been given a new backstory through a complex and sophisticated screenplay that immediately establishes sympathy for a character traditionally revered as a villainess and does it with such style and wit that we can't help but love her. Pitting the character against an antagonist who is a lot like herself fascinates throughout. Both Estella and the Baroness are given ultra clever dialogue that provides insight into them. I loved when the Baroness says "I'm intrigued...that never happens." The relationship between Estella and the Baroness initially resembles the relationship between Andy and Miranda Priestley in The Devil Wears Prada, but morphs into something so richer. I also loved that Estella and Cruella thinks of herself as two different people.

Director Craig Gillepsie (I, Tonya) takes his time, perhaps just a tad too much time, allowing the story to unfold and probably could have been a little more economic in the mounting of exposition, giving the film a slow start, but once Estella meets the Baroness, the
story fires on all cylinders, thanks to Oscar-worthy camerawork, editing, costumes, and allowing the camera to often telegraph character emotion and development.

Emma Stone gives the performance of her career as Cruella, easily trumping her Oscar-winning performance in La La Land and Emma Thompson is a crisp and caustic Baroness, a performance that should earn her an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Also have to give shout outs to Walter Paul Hauser (Richard Jewell), Joel Fry, and Mark Strong in supporting roles and a music/song score that defies description. Intoxicating entertainment that I wasn't expecting. Bouquets all around.