Director(s): Ryan Murphy
Writer(s): Bob Martin, Chad Beguelin
Cast: Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman
Synopsis: A troupe of hilariously self-obsessed theater stars swarm into a small conservative Indiana town in support of a high school girl who wants to take her girlfriend to the prom.
Ryan Murphy, who has cornered the TV game with hits like Glee, American Horror Story, and American Crime Story. He has managed to really grow and has become a very respectable TV director, even releases Hollywood and Ratched this year. While he has become a household name in the TV department, he hasn’t done so well in the film department.
The Prom marks his third outing as a feature film director following Running With Scissors (2006) and Eat Pray Love (2010). Both of those films had pretty low scores overall, and was maybe showing that Murphy just wasn’t there as a film director. I still don’t think he has fully come into his own as a film director, but you can definitely see moments here that point me in the direction of growth in his abilities.
A lot of this growth comes in his style as a director. He has an extremely vibrant and colorful look and feel to what he does that work some for TV, but doesn’t translate well in a film setting. Here, he can kind of get away with that because it is supposed to be a vibrant musical, but there were also small intimate moments that Murphy was able to capture really well. There was a different feel to The Prom that I really enjoyed from him and hope to see more in the future.
The performances from most of the cast were charming and full of life. Ariana DeBose got me incredibly excited to see her in Spielberg’s Westside Story. Her along with Jo Ellen Pellman were the standouts from this film. Nicole Kidman, Kerri Washington, and Keegan-Michael were all fun in their roles and brought so much life to the film. Andrew Rannels surprised me here with how good he was. He was the lead for, in my opinion, the best number of the entire movie in “Love Thy Neighbor”, and he was a joy on screen as well.
The two more emotional roles were left to Meryl Streep and James Corden. Corden tried his best, but I really think this role would have been much better suited for a gay man. Corden, who is already a huge question mark in the acting department, just seemed incredibly out of touch with the character. He did have one more intimate moment with Meryl Streep that I thought he performed really well, but other than that he just felt incredibly miscast. Meryl Streep, however, fully slipped into this role like it was an old pair of clothing. This is the most comfortable I have seen Streep in a long time, and it wouldn’t surprise me if she got awards recognition from this. Her parts of the emotional scene with Corden really brought a tear to my eye in a way she hasn’t done in a long time.
I can nitpick this movie all day, but truthfully this film was just a fun experience. The songs, dances, and performances translated well onto the big screen and the nature of the film led to a joyous ride. Was it outlandish at times, sure, but it always knew what it was and could find its way back if it ever began to steer too far off course. Which it did manage to move off course some, and at times feels like it is being emotionally manipulative towards some elements of the story, but I really believe the heart of the film is good and is prevalent.
Final: Highly exaggerated but wholly sweet, The Prom is a fun and exciting musical of a rather outlandish story. Almost all of the performances shine, and the songs are destined to please. Murphy isn’t fully a film director, but he is on his way with this one.
Current Tomato Score: 62%
Current Metacritic: 56
Awards Prospects: Actress, Original Song, Costumes, Makeup and Hairstyling
Jacob is a film critic and co-founder of the Music City Drive-In. He is a member of the Music City Film Critics’ Association and specializes in the awards season. You can find him on Twitter @Tberry57.