The Prom (Netflix)
Starring: Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Keegan-Michael Key, Andrew Rannells, Ariana DeBose, Tracey Ullman, Kevin Chamberlin, Mary Kay Place, Kerry Washington, Jo Ellen Pellman.
Directed by Ryan Murphy
I’d wade through waist-deep slush to see a dream cast like this. Luckily I had to do no such thing, as The Prom , with all its glorious pomp and surrender, arrived at my doorstep. A full-blown musical where everyone speaks in shrill excitement and every frame is punctuated by an exclamation, this is an old-fashioned musical with a new-age twist.
And the cast helmed by the one-and-only Meryl Streep digs its high heels deep into the funscape about bunch of on-the-skids Broadway stars who look for a ‘cause’ to ignite their flickering career. The ‘cause they choose is Emma (Jo Ellen Pellman) a fresh-faced dewy-eyes highschool ingenue in a small town who is not allowed to participate in her school prom when her date turns out to be a girl.
Denial of civil rights, scream the liberals. Streep and gang descend on the town, to further their own cause, but end up fighting a genuine battle for Emma’s freedom to be who she is without her school peers reminding her of who she ought to be.
It’s not a frighteningly bold film on acceptance and tolerance. But it has a genuine agenda in its plot. Unlike Streep’s character who only wants to come back into the limelight, director Ryan Murphy and his team whip a fleet of sincere feelings for their chosen cause through the frothy fun and dance formula that is unleashed with a disarming gusto.
As I watched Ms Streep sing and dance on screen with such magical verve, I wondered, not for the first time, is there’s anything she can’t do. She has talkshow host James Corden for company in most of her scenes. Corden is delightfully droll as a gay Broadway actor with serious Mommy issues that get magically resolved before THE END.
But of course! This is the magical mystical melodious mutating world of musical ‘cheers’. Meryl with a cast that needs to express itself in effervescent colloquialisms are all so reassuringly in-sync with the confectionery compulsions of this feelgood hip-and-lip kisser. They are so effective that you forget this world they inhabit is just a bubble ready to burst. And it does! The outburst of song and dance is simply irresistible. You end up cheering for Emma and her partner (Ariana DeBose) not only because you support gay rights but because you support the right to happiness, no matter what the sexual preference.
Any quibble? Yes, my favourite Nicole Kidman seems strangely intimidated, participating in the singing and dancing with her mind somewhere else? What was she thinking? The comparisons with Meryl Streep?