Thursday, December 10, 2020

The Prom - Review

 Upon the credits rolling after two hours of singing, dancing, and typical musical set pieces, only one thought persisted: this is going to absolutely clean house at the Golden Globes. Not because its a good film mind you, but because this is exactly the kind of star-powered cheesiness that the HFPA gobbles up. Don’t get it confused, there are parts of The Prom that are actually good, but the overwhelming lack of direction make it just another average musical adaption.

For those unfamiliar with the stage musical of the same name, The Prom follows the story of seventeen-year-old Emma Nolan, played here by newcomer Jo Ellen Pellman, after she is banned from attending her high school prom with her girlfriend Alyssa, played by Ariana DeBose. That is, until four aging Broadway performers attempt to come to her rescue in rural Indiana. 

Fortunately for The Prom, it’s central romance is absolutely adorable. Pellman and DeBose have the chemistry and awkwardness that you’d expect from a high school relationship bogged down by secrets and controversy. DeBose is going to be a star. While the role of Alyssa provides her with only one true moment to shine, it’s clear that with a meatier part, DeBose will skyrocket. Pellman on the other hand gets a lot more to do, and she more than holds her own with the stars around her. 

In reality, the story becomes about more than just a prom, if that wasn’t obvious already, and ventures into trying so hard to sell a message of acceptance. Much of these less than subtle attempts to be profound fall upon the four other main members of the cast, of which only three are even tolerable. Director Ryan Murphy just doesn’t quite get a firm grasp on what he wants to say. The film jumps from scene to scene at a breakneck pace with little room for the actual emotional moments to breathe. 

And then there are the Broadway stars. It’s not great when only three of your four showstoppers are even tolerable. Meryl Streep is Meryl Streep. She could wake up on the day of shooting and probably pull this role off. The only time it seems like she jolts awake is when she gets to flirt with the principal (Keegan-Michael Key). Andrew Rannells is an excellent, charismatic performer, and it suits his very thin character well. Nicole Kidman, on the other hand, is fine, not bad or good in any discernible way. But then there’s James Corden.

Corden has always received his fair share of criticism, even if he seems decent enough in reality. His casting in The Prom was a bad move to begin with, topped only by the actual performance itself in terms of questionable choices. Corden is going for the over-the-top, stereotypical portrayal of a gay man and it feels so dated, as if this was actually filmed in 2005 and is just now making it to Netflix. It’s hard to understand why Corden was placed in this role, but it’s even harder to understand how someone actually thought the character choices were the right call.

The Prom, for all its faults, still might be just what people need in a tumultuous 2020 Holiday season. It’s light, kind of fun, and zips by without much thought required. It’s far from flashy, both in design and direction, but there are worse adaptations of Broadway musicals out there. And if you’re familiar with the music at all, you’ll still find yourself singing along. So if you’re looking for an easy way to spend two hours, look no further than Golden Globe winner for Best Musical / Comedy: The Prom.

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