Has 2020 dealt you a curveball in every month, day, minute of us enduring it? Need to break away from the crazy news cycle, endless bickering, and jump into a musical world? Well, ‘The Prom’ is just the right temporary vaccine to give you a dose of happiness and foot-tapping songs to sing over ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ blaring at every store this holiday.
Meet Broadway duo Dee Dee Allen (Meryl Streep) and Barry Glickman (James Corden) fresh off of their recent flop, a Broadway production of Eleanor Roosevelt that closed on opening week. The two decide they need an image cleanup after reading disastrous reviews of their work, and with the help of two other actors- Trent Oliver (Andrew Rannells), an in-between jobs Julliard grad that doesn’t let you forget it, and Angie Dickerson, a chorus girl who just quit her job after 20 years in the industry. The four find their cause on twitter, where in Indiana a student Emma Nolan (Jo Ellen Pellman) who recently came out as gay was being denied the chance to go to prom by the rigid and traditional PTA leader Mrs. Greene (Kerry Washington). All 4 performers head down to Indiana, causing more attention and possibly negative consequences to Emma, as they try to give themselves good publicity.
Director Ryan Murphy, creator of the hit tv show ‘Glee’ uses his sensibilities with high school drama and bring in incredible talents like Meryl Streep to enhance it to be a really fun watch. The story is based off the 2016 Broadway musical also titled ‘The Prom’ that ran until 2018 and won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Musical, and I think if you were to compare James Corden’s recent attempts at starring in a Broadway to live-action film, Cats, ‘The Prom’ is leaps and bounds better.
The school is brightly colored with yellow and blue, the production design is bright and saturated to give the entire film a dream-like palette. All of the students inside this Indiana school can seem a bit one-note and oversimplified at times, but are still dressed to the nines and for some reason all have incredible singing and dancing skills, but that is the hyper realistic world we are in with ‘The Prom’. The performances from all of our leads are strong, almost all of the main actors also having musical backgrounds in some capacity and are able to carry that into this film. Meryl Streep is having the time of her life and James Corden is trying to keep up.
I’ll admit I was unsure about this movie with Corden being involved however, this is one of his better performances as Barry, and is able to handle a few dramatic scenes fairly well. Nicole Kidman does a showstopping number invoking notes of ‘Chicago’, and Andrew Rannells brings his ‘Book of Mormon’ charisma and charm to the most catchy number of the film. There are excellent supporting performances by Keegan- Michael Key as ‘Principal Hawkins’ a longtime fan of Dee Dee’s and advocate for Emma to be included and accepted. Jo Ellen Pellman is able to keep up with a long list of A-listers, I really cared about her character and think her story is a relatable and needed one to be explored in this format.
The music is good, the story is heartfelt and impactful, and you’ll be singing the songs long after the credits have rolled. ‘The Prom’ is a strong recommendation to watch this December to keep around some lightness, joy, and messages of inclusion.