When it comes to musicals (and comedies by the way) it’s quite simple for me. Either I hate them passionately or I really love them. In fact there are great classics (even Oscars) that crush me. On the other hand, I love Grease and especially The Blues Brothers, which I watch regularly. Prom belongs to the last category. It’s certainly not a perfect film, but I appreciate its important message, even though some flaws are unfortunately hard to ignore.
At the beginning of the dance you are in Edgewater, a small town in Indiana. The head of the local high school parents’ association (played by Kerry Washington) tells reporters that she cancels the annual ball. The reason? One of the students, Emma (Jo Ellen Pellman), wants to invite another girl to the event. And it’s against the rules! The director (Keegan-Michael Key) obviously disagrees and promises Emma that he will look for a solution.
Meanwhile, a musical about the life of Eleanor Roosevelt premieres in New York. The two leaders, Dee Dee Allen (Meryl Streep) and Barry Glickman (James Corden), are delighted and give enthusiastic interviews to the press. When the last criticism turns out to be very negative, it is clear that the two divas have to do something about it. The bartender, who is also an actor, Trent Oliver, and the singer Angie Dickinson (Nicole Kidman) join the unhappy duo and advise them to join. This makes Dee Dee and Barry even more popular.
As it happens, Angie finds out what happened to Emma. The four quickly decide that this is the reason for their investigation and go to Indiana with their publicist. It’s where local high school students bully Emma. After all, she’s the reason there’s no ball. Meanwhile, these four subjects arrive and disrupt the PTA meeting where they make their intentions known. But after a while it becomes difficult to know if Dee Dee and the others are there for Emma or for their own reputation.
The prom is based on the musical of the same name. Although I was enthusiastic about the main theme – the fight for equal rights for the LGBT community – some events are very predictable. The daughter of the chairman of the PTA, for example, turns out to be Emma’s lover, and she hasn’t come to her mother yet. Dee Dee soon falls in love with one of the other main characters, who turns out to be a big fan of her work. And at some point, Emma and her lover even break off their relationship. But as you can imagine, all’s well that ends well.
I think casting decisions are a little inconsistent. Meryl Streep is a great actress, but her Dee Dee could use a bigger kick. She plays a diva, but she’s certainly not as arrogant as her character in The Devil Wears Prada. Nicole Kidman (who gets better every year) and Andrew Runnells (Trent) are charming, as is Kerry Washington, who plays the role of PTA leader. (By the way, I didn’t know DC had such a powerful voice!) But the real stars are teenage girls Jo Ellen Pellman (Emma) and Ariana DeBose (Alyssa). Pellman already has some television experience, but this is his first film. Conversely, DeBose has much more experience as an actor. And, most importantly, both girls are funny in real life.
But the biggest problem is James Corden. I know him mostly as the host of The Late Show, but I had never seen him live before I saw him in The Graduate. His interpretation of Barry’s diva is not brilliant enough and seems uninspired, even a bit boring. But the biggest problem with Corden is that he is a heterosexual who plays the role of a homosexual. Aren’t there gay actors with a good voice for this role? I’m sure of it! That’s too bad.
Despite the problems with some actors and the predictability of the plot, Promen is certainly not a bad movie. Yeah, she’s touching something serious. But the film itself is reassuring. I’m sure it has something to do with the enthusiasm with which the actors approach the subject. For all his faults, even James Corden seems to be enjoying himself. The music and songs are very catchy, and the end of the film is simply magical.
The man responsible for all this is producer, director and writer (and now Netflix protagonist) Ryan Murphy, best known for his TV series such as Glee, Nip/Tuck and American Horror Story. In the film he also directed Eat, Pray, Love and Normal Heart.
His version of Graduation is not perfect – certainly not a masterpiece. But after a year of so much bad news and uncertainty, we need a good film. This will cheer you up for the holidays, which for many people will be different from the usual Christmas period. With the prom you can put your worries aside, at least for a while.
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