The Prom

Review by Rich Cline | 4/5

The Prom
dir Ryan Murphy
scr Bob Martin, Chad Beguelin
prd Ryan Murphy, Alexis Martin Woodall, Adam Anders, Dori Berinstein, Bill Damaschke
with Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Keegan-Michael Key, Andrew Rannells, Jo Ellen Pellman, Kerry Washington, Ariana DeBose, Tracey Ullman, Kevin Chamberlin, Mary Kay Place, Logan Riley
release US/UK 11.Dec.20
20/US Netflix 2h10

key washington ullman

Is it streaming?

rannells, streep, corden and kidman
Loosely based on real events, this hyper-glittery musical mixes pointed politics, comedy and lively song-and-dance numbers to tell a personal story that spirals deliriously out of control. Like Hairspray, this is a buoyant show that never takes itself seriously even as it punches an urgent theme. Filmmaker Ryan Murphy doesn't have a particularly light touch, and some in the heavy-hitting cast are underused. But the film's joy is infectious.
After PTA leader Mrs Greene (Washington) cancels prom in order to prevent Emma (Pellman) from bringing a girl as her date, the story goes viral, connecting with Broadway diva Dee Dee (Streep) and her showbiz pals: preening Barry (Corden), struggling Angie (Kidman) and has-been Trent (Rannells). So they decide to descend on Indiana to start a fight and make their point. Teaming up with Principal Hawkins (Key), they take on the bigoted PTA, which viciously undermines their plan to throw an inclusive prom. But this is only the first skirmish in a bigger war.
The hammy Broadway contingent is hilarious, inflated with their importance and relishing the prospective of earning good press by taking on Emma's cause. The dialog and lyrics are riotously clever, skewering political correctness along with issues of prejudice and repression. Streep's big number It's Not About Me is laugh-out-loud priceless, but there are also several moving moments peppered throughout the plot. And Emma's romance with the nervous Alyssa (DeBose) is very sweet.

Streep is on in scene-chewing heaven, gleefully playing Dee Dee's larger-than-life personality while also revealing the insecure small-town girl inside. She has terrific synergy with Corden, Kidman and Rannells, who each get a spotlight song to add their own spark to the story's themes. Key has more to do in his role as a right-thinking man who's also a starstruck fan. And Washington brings some sassy edge. But the film is grounded by the talented Pellman and DeBose, who add earthy honesty to their side of the story.

This is a celebration of love and acceptance, so parents who have cruelly rejected children because of who they are will never watch it. A preaching-to-the-choir approach has more impact on stage than on screen, so Murphy goes all in, making everything colourful but never actually fluffy to speak the truth without shouting. So for people who need encouragement, this is just the ticket, reminding us not to let the haters get us down. Just find some glitter and give it some zazz.

cert 12 themes, language 29.Nov.20

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