There used to be a time in the not too distant pass when a new movie from uber-gay producer Ryan Murphy was met with such unfettered excitement. Nowadays the announcement of yet another Netflix backed drama from one of the industry’s most prolific producers is greeted with more apprehension than actual enthusiasm. Particular in the case of The Prom which is the first movie he has also directed since The Normal Heart in 2015.
The musical The Prom opened on Broadway in 2018 to critical acclaim although it failed to win any of the 6 Tony Awards it was nominated for. It did however win the Drama Desk Best Musical Award and attracted the attention of Murphy who bought the film rights . The Broadway production closed after 9 months after failing to recoup its initial investment .
With Broadway now completely closed for several months under Lockdown, The Prom should fill the gap for all those fans desperate for a behind-the-scenes sentimental showbusiness where some ingenue becomes the next new star.
The Film starts when an ill conceived musical about Eleanor Roosevelt closing on its opening night after being slaughtered by savage reviews. Poor has-been Broadway star Dee Dee (Meryl Streep), still fixated on back when her performance collected Tony’s, knows her days of being a celebrity are marked. Her outrageously camp co-star Barry (an awkwardly over-the-top James Corden) convinces her that all they need are some good newspaper headlines. Which he says they could get by simply being seen to publicly taking up some worthy cause
They’re joined by veteran Broadway chorus girl Angie Dickinson (a greatly underused Nicole Kidman) who finds the perfect project that is ‘trending’ on Twitter. Its the story of Emma Nolan (newcomer Jo Ellen Pellman), a high-school senior barred from bringing her girlfriend Alyssa (Ariana DeBose) to the Prom in her conservative Indiana high school.
The 4th star is barman/ out-of-luck actor Trent Oliver (Andrew Rannells) who is about to go on another Godspell Tour so suggests they all jump on his bus as they are due to pass through Indiana. Streep, decked in different sequin outfits in nearly every scene may seem like a glamorous fish out of water in this cliched rom-com, but she does still get some moments to shine . She also gets to make out with the School Principal played by the much younger Keegan-Michael Key.
There is one brief scene where Dee Dee is trying to check in at a shabby cheap local motel and is trying to barter for a non-existent Suite. She flashes her Tony Awards which she carries with her everywhere. In the moments that Streep isn’t on screen gallantly trying to turn this sows ear into a silk purse, Murphy does his best to make the film exactly like another version of Glee his TV musical series..
Kidman gets to her best Fosse impression, Corden gets reunited with his mother who he hasn’t seen since he came out” She is played by the fabulous Tracey Ullman touting a vey bad hairpiece, as obviously all the wig budget was used to make Streep’s Dee Dee look so stunning
Murphy has at least discovered a new star in Jo Ellen-Perlmann who sings like an angel, and with a quiet dignity reminded us all that strip all the sequins and glitz away, that this was still a tale of blatant homophobia.
She and the all-star cast will be the reason why this film will receive more attention than it deserves as at 2hrs 10 mins it is way too long with far too many songs
The last word however goes to Streep who at the Q & A following the premiere screening joked “It was such a stretch playing someone so vain and overrated, a big fat narcissist! I don’t know where I pulled it from,” while adding that she, personally, is “not a diva.”
Labels: 2020, Broadway musical, Meryl Streep, Ryan Murphy