I’m not a Musical theater guy so I winced at the run time, but Ryan Murphy (Ratched) has worked on a lot of projects that I appreciated. Jo Ellen Pellman (The Deuce) and Ariana DeBose (Hamilton) are unknown to me but the rest of the cast Meryl Streep (The Giver), Nicole Kidman (Paddington), Kerry Washington (Little Fires Everywhere), Andrew Runnels (The Boys In The Band), Keegan-Michael Kee (All The Bright Places), and James Corden (Into The Woods) were enough of a draw for me.
Premise: A troupe of hilariously self-obsessed theater stars, whose expensive new Broadway show is a major flop that has flatlined their careers, swarm into a small conservative Indiana town in support of a high school girl – Emma – who wants to take her girlfriend to the prom. Emma’s predicament is the perfect cause to help resurrect their public images, but when their self-absorbed celebrity activism unexpectedly backfires, the foursome find their own lives upended as they rally to give Emma a night where she can truly celebrate who she is.
Review: The first fifteen minutes convinced me that The Prom was deeper than the fluff I thought it was. It’s not – well not just – a social justice tale about the hardship of growing up gay in a conservative community, there’s more layers to it. There are truthful observations throughout, I was surprised and amazed by them.
I loved the shelf serving wokeness of the Broadway actors, it is ridiculous and funny to see but it’s also sad at how true this feels. The ego fueled response from the Big city liberals symbolized by these “celebrity” actors contrast really well with the small town girl, Emma, who has simple needs and her own problems beside not being allowed to go to a prom. It begs the questions of how useful is fake activism? Because it seems that even when it’s not genuine it still has somewhat of a good impact. Still gets the word out and inspires others to do it – the activism part.
Despite being a musical marketed as being about a discriminated lesbian teen I never once felt like the movie was harping on those who were discriminating on her. I’m saying that even if they do something cruel to specifically hurt Emma to then poorly explain and/or justify it. The people who are against Emma are not vilified by the film but they are not given a lot of screen time, which could have elevated the movie a little more.
The story is compelling, the songs are clever and fun – though sometime they seem to be subtle digs at a few celebs – but the cast does a great job overall. Keegan-Michael Kee and Meryl Streep captivated me the most, they have amazing Chemistry. I mean it’s not a pairing that would have ever crossed my mind, but it was sizzling. At the same time I feel like Streep could have chemistry with anyone – I am aware that it kind of is a backhanded compliment to Kee. Nicole Kidman, Kerry Washington, and Andrew Runnels are also amazing and so was James Corden – one of the campiest straight man I’ve ever seen – but Jo Ellen Pellman, Emma in the movie, and Ariana DeBose weirdly seemed like two straight actresses playing gay characters. I found out they’re both LGBT, which surprised me, and they did a great job with their roles, they really did. In the sense that I sort of had to suspend my disbelief to see them as gay characters just like I had to do with Corden, who’s straight.
I don’t want to spoil the movie but there some LGBT teens at some point in the movie who seem….well I didn’t need to suspend my disbelief to believe they were Queer kids. I might be the problem here, I may be stereotyping, even though few of them “looked LGBT.” I don’t know that to be true but to me they looked like real people, not actors playing a part so that’s maybe where that feeling comes from.
I am not authority when it comes to musical but this one is quite the stand out, I knew Ryan Murphy was attached but I didn’t realized that he was also the director. I checked because it really stood out. I’m so used to him as a writer-producer that I forgot that he can direct. He kept me in the action, I moved with him and the dancers, and he captured the locations in the movie really well.
The Prom is poignant and funny, a very entertaining pleasant surprise of a movie musical.