Feel good January is going as well as can be expected as the world burns around us. Last week’s pick failed to light my personal fire and maybe that’s because there wasn’t enough glitz in it to turn my head (I’m not sure what I was expecting from working class Midlands in the 1980’s). Obviously this makes me very shallow indeed.
Anyway, there’s no way you could ever accuse this week’s film of that as it throws enough sequins and glitter at the screen to fully furnish twenty seasons of Ru Paul’s Drag Race, and still have change to spare.
The Prom (2020)
Everyone deserves a chance to celebrate.
A troupe of hilariously self-obsessed theater stars swarm into a small conservative Indiana town in support of a high school girl who wants to take her girlfriend to the prom.
Self-involved Broadway star Dee Dee Allen (Streep) and her co-star, Barry Glickman (Corden) find themselves reeling when their brand new show, Eleanor! The Eleanor Roosevelt Story is shut down on opening night, following horrific reviews. Comforted by ‘in-between gigs’ actor Trent Oliver (Andrew Rannells) and ‘always the chorus girl, never the star’ Angie Dickinson (Kidman), the quartet decide they need a cause to draw public attention away from the car crash of their imploding careers.
On trawling Twitter, Ange finds out that Emma (Jo Ellen Pellman) – a gay woman in Edgewater, Indiana – is trending after her school prom is cancelled to prevent her bringing her girlfriend. How very convenient! The gang immediately hitch a ride to Edgewater with Trent and the cast of Godspell in order to fight for justice, love and… themselves.
Emma, meanwhile, is being bullied by her class mates for getting the prom cancelled. She does have an ally in the form of school principal Tom Hawkins (Keegan-Michael Key) though, who’s fully in support of her and keen to take on Mrs Greene, Head of the PTA (Kerry Washington), who believes having a same-sex couple at the dance will compromise the town’s traditional beliefs.
The actors storm a PTA meeting and – via the magic of musical theater – come out in support of Emma. Mrs Greene is incandescent with rage but Hawkins in a massive fan of Dee Dee – so the show looks like it will go on. Emma talks in depth with her girlfriend Alyssa (Ariana DeBose) about her coming out to her mother… who just so happens to be a very angry character we’ve already met… Hmm.
Will this circus have any effect on the PTA’s decision to scrap prom? And, honestly, is Edgewater ready for their particular brand of open-mindedness? Judging by their impromptu performance at a monster truck rally on their first night, possibly not.
But little by little, things start to come together, as Emma gets closer to prom night, Alyssa gets ready to come out to her mother – and the actors enjoy their own individual arcs. With amusing and not always polished results.
Will any of them get their happy ending or is all that glitters, not yards of sequins? (That one worked better in my head).
We have come to show this community that gay people, and gay positive icons such as myself, are made of the same flesh and blood as they are. ~ Dee Dee Allen
First of all, this film has no business being over 2 hours long. It’s at least 25 minutes too flabby and, there’s just so much going on. I didn’t hate it but I can absolutely see why it’s been critiqued.
James Corden doesn’t bother me as much as he usually does (why does Hollywood insist on dropping him into every film ever made these days?). Which is weird because his portrayal of a gay man is stereotypical at best. At worst it’s perpetuating outdated notions of the gays and a curious decision by Ryan Murphy. It smacks of insincerity and I would have been happier to see a queer actor in the role, something Murphy managed to see through in his leading ladies, Pellman and DeBose.
Streep is Streep obviously but it was Kidman who really shone for me, although the very notion of her being overlooked for lead roles is a joke. Her one on one scenes with Emma were lovely. There’s also cute support from Key (who’s always quality) and his total adoration of Dee Dee is kind of sweet, especially given she’s a lady of a certain age and these things usually work the other way round.
It looks nice, the songs weren’t horrible – I think maybe Dance with You, The Lady’s Improving, Love Thy Neighbour and Alyssa Greene were my favourite songs, though whether I will remember them tomorrow remains to be seen. As mentioned above, there is a lot going on – most of the focus on why we’re really here is lost in Barry’s relationship with his estranged parents, Mrs Greene’s reason for being so hard on her daughter, Dee Dee’s first marriage AND her blossoming romance with Watkins.
It would have been nice to focus on the central couple a little more and reinforce the point that allyship should not be performative, even if the actors are (at least in the beginning) in it for the kudos points. In short though, it’s fine if superficial and cheesy as fuck – and mildly enjoyable if you’re happy to take it for what it is.
What does my prom date think of this one? Would she leave it to dance alone or shower it in sequins and take it public? Find out here.