The Prom movie review: Ryan Murphy's Broadway adaptation on Netflix is a snoozefest despite stellar cast
The Prom tries inducing doses of the thrills of live musicals but forgets to back it up with a meaningful story.
castMeryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Kerry Washington, James Corden, Keegan-michael Key, Andrew Rannells, Jo Ellen Pellman
In a year that largely consisted of indoor activities, Broadway theatricals surely took an unfortunate hit. Ryan Murphy’s The Prom, streaming on Netflix, is a noble attempt at deluding audiences into a world of razzmatazz but stumbles owing to poor execution and a complete lack of a gripping script.
With a venerable star cast that includes names like Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, James Corden, and the oh-so-wonderful Keegan-Michael Key, one would expect nothing less than a masterclass on how-to-Broadway. However, Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin’s adaptation of their book (also written by Matthew Sklar) hardly passes muster.
A has-been theatre star Dee Dee Allen (Streep) prematurely celebrates the opening of her Broadway production Eleonor! (a misguided musical on Eleanor Roosevelt) with her co-star and friend Barry Clickman (Corden) when the harsh outpour of reviews renders them emasculated. The two drown their sorrows in multiple martinis, joined by two more performers on the outs (Kidman and Andrew Rannells).
After a brief session of self-loathing, the narcissists in them prevent a further spiralling and they decide to salvage their social status through a PR cleanse. They choose a Twitter-friendly cause to champion, “A little injustice we can drive to,” as Dee Dee puts it.
Thus, comes in Edgewater, Indiana’s awkward gay teenager Emma (Jo Ellen Pellman), inadvertently making headlines for wanting to go to her high-school prom with her female date, Alyssa (Ariana DeBose).
Edgewater’s conservative ways stand steadfastly in their way as Alyssa’s mother (Kerry Washington) and the school principal (Key) launch into a proverbial war respectively against and for Emma’s civil rights.
The motley group becomes unsolicited fairy godmothers to this teen, parading behind her with banners and public speeches that break into full-blown dance numbers in school auditoriums and outdoor car-racing arenas.
Their resilience, though misplaced, is remarkable. Dee Dee (Streep in remarkable form, but no surprises there) heralds the clan of four, proudly proclaiming herself a “gay-positive icon”. Barry’s approach is more personal. Having undergone a similar fate, his parental instincts kick in as he lends a helping hand to an abandoned-by-parents Emma. Kidman’s Angie is a buddy to Emma, telling her to toughen up and teaching her the art of “giving it some zazz.”
Despite their attempts, Emma’s odds stack up higher against her and she is completely left alone to celebrate her own ‘inclusive’ prom while all other students celebrate elsewhere.
After a self-motivated peaceful and musical protest, Emma achieves her goal and hosts the year’s biggest prom that invites each person with open arms. A happily-ever-after commences, but The Prom still leaves an odd aftertaste of dissatisfaction. Despite the truisms on acceptance and the fuzzy warmth of self-love, the film suffers from a stretched screenplay and staggering momentum.
Matthew Libatique’s lens belies the genuine trauma of feeling ostracised and isolated, but his work with colours remains loyal to the Broadway scene.
The halfway mark, which depicts Emma’s heartbreak, evokes a sense of indifference from the audience's perspective. Despite the spiritedness highlighted by neon lights and shimmery costumes, Emma’s world feels hardly lived in; her dilemma a mere stepping stone to greater things that never happen (never a good sign). Streep and Kidman’s sheer brilliance is wasted on haphazard rhyme schemes and a shoddy screenplay.
The Prom tries inducing doses of the woozy thrills of live musicals but almost forgets to back it up with a meaningful story.
The Prom streams on Netflix.
(All images from Twitter)
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