Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical

Based on the stage musical of the same name, Matilda (Alisha Weir) is an updated version of the classic 90s version. The story of an incredibly smart girl with a wild imagination, she’s misunderstood by her parents (Stephen Graham and Andrea Riseborough) and sticks to her books. It isn’t until she starts attending Crunchem Hall that she meets Miss Honey (Lashana Lynch) who can see her full potential.

I’d been debating checking this out for some time now. Having actually seen the musical in London, I more or less knew what to expect going into it. I remember feeling letdown and wondered how I would fare with the movie version of it. While there were some strong points, it mostly fell flat for me.

The first bright spot in the film was it’s casting. Weir made the role of Matilda her own. I found myself rooting for her throughout and actually really enjoying her performance. I liked the fact that Lynch was for Miss Honey. The only aspect that I wish had been fleshed out some more was her relationship with Matilda. I kept comparing theses scenes to the ones that the two characters shared before. At the end of the day, however, it was Emma Thompson as Ms. Trunchbull who shined the brightest. Had she not been in the film, I probably wouldn’t have bothered watching it.

In true musical fashion, the songs and choreography scenes were well done. Matilda’s opening song of Naughty was one of my favorites, as was the Revolting Children group number at the end. The rest, unfortunately, were not very memorable. On top of that, the set locations, particularly in the scenes where Matilda would tell her stories, were aesthetically pleasing to look at.

I think my problem with the film, aside from the fact that I was already hesitant because of my prior experience with it, was the fact that I simply love the original too much. I understand that this version is closer to the source material being more on the darker side, but I grew up with the other and couldn’t see past it.

Rating: ♥♥.5

Good Luck To You, Leo Grande

Good Luck To You, Leo Grande follows the story of Nancy Stokes (Emma Thompson), a retired teacher who lost her husband a couple years prior. Wanting to find herself again, she decides to hire escort Leo Grande (Daryl McCormack). What starts off as a business transaction develops into something more as both Nancy and Leo’s walls come down and the two form a heartwarming connection.

Emma Thompson is brilliant in all that she does. She is the reason why I wanted to watch this movie in the first place. Always giving it her all, the performance she delivers here is unlike anything I have ever seen. Daryl McCormack was equally as enjoyable to watch. His charm and attractiveness lit up the screen and there was a sort of simple yet endearing chemistry between them.

The single setting of a hotel room made for an intimate viewing experience. With Nancy and Leo in the forefront, we really get to know them. As the movie progresses, the layers are stripped back and we see not only Nancy and her reasonings for hiring Leo in the first place, but we also learn about Leo’s background. While the two characters may seem different, they have more in common than meets the eye.

With strong writing and some laugh out loud moments scattered throughout, I have to admit that I found the middle of the film dragged slightly. When those personal details started getting in the way of Nancy and Leo’s meetings, I lost a bit of interest and wasn’t sure I liked the direction it was going in. Luckily it picked up again for the final act.

Good Luck To You, Leo Grande was different than what I was expecting it to be going into it. I thought it would be about one woman wanting to conquer her sexual desires, but what I got was so much more than that. Considered to be a character study on Nancy, I really appreciated the way in which she came to terms with her new normal and how she learned to love herself in the process. It was quite powerful to see.

Rating: ♥♥♥.5

Cruella

Estella (Emma Stone) has always dreamed of becoming a fashion designer. A grifter, she meets Jasper (Joel Fry) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser) and the three of them build a life for themselves on the streets of London. When Estella lands a job working for Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson), she believes that she has finally made it. Unfortunately for her, the Baroness is not who Estella was hoping she would be and desire to rivel the Baroness grows. Before she knows it, Estella is no more and Cruella has taken her place.

The newest addition to Disney’s live action remakes, Cruella has been taking the world by storm. A lot of build up and anticipation for fans of the original classic, I have to say that this was a solid movie at the end of the day. It wasn’t perfect, but it definitely is one of the better films Disney has put out lately.

One of the things that worked best was the cast. They were all phenomenal and that says a lot because I wasn’t sure what to think of Emma Stone at first. I love her, but the idea of her as Cruella didn’t seem to fit. She proved me wrong though and I am so happy about that. Emma Thompson is a queen and she was fabulous in this. Paul Walter Hauser and Joel Fry were exactly how I pictured Horace and Jasper to be and the additions of Mark Strong as John, Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Anita and Kayvan Novak as Roger were also well done.

I cannot get over the beautiful costumes that were created for this movie. Heavily influenced by punk rock, it was different and edgy. I coveted all the looks! I also appreciated the music choices and thought that they fit well into the various scenes.

The only thing that I didn’t like was the length of the film. It felt too long and could have certainly been cut down a bit, especially in the beginning. The story took some time to really lift off though I have to admit that once it did, it didn’t let up for a second.

Cruella was a movie that I had been looking forward to ever since it was announced. I remember loving 101 Dalmatians as a child and so I was excited to see the origin story for its villain. I’m really glad that it delivered. It kept me thoroughly entertained and yes, I am hoping for a sequel.

Rating: ♥♥♥♥