THE PROM | FILM REVIEW
Dir: Ryan Murphy (12A, 132 mins)
There is no doubt that The Prom has its heart in the right place. A film version of the smash Broadway musical of 2018, this tale of down-at-heel musical stars helping out a lesbian in a blinkered, prejudiced Indiana town wears its camp heart on its sleeve. It’s a shame that it’s so bloated, lacking in gravitas and has an incredibly miscast James Corden in it.
Corden, along with Meryl Streep, has just bombed in the opening of a new musical on Broadway about Eleanor Roosevelt and FDR, when they hear the story of a prom failing to go ahead because of anti-LGBTQ prejudice. Jo Allen Pelmann wants to bring her girlfriend as her date – a still-closeted Ariana DeBose, who also happens to be the daughter of anti-prom campaigner Mrs Greene, played by Kerry Washington. The washed-up musical stars, along with a criminally wasted, Fosse-obsessed Nicole Kidman and wannabe star Andrew Rannells, head to Indiana to add their star wattage and thirst for self-publicity to the cause.
A series of overtly sincere and subsequently unedifying songs clumsily propel the paper-thin narrative forward. On stage, this might be forgiveable; on screen, it’s harder to justify. The songs are bland, formulaic and forgettable Disney-esque fodder, with the occasional musical theatre injoke zinger, as the actors force their way to centre stage, overpowering the central, sweetly played lesbian romance. Keegan-Michael Kaye brings some solidity as the principal with inclusive principles; Tracy Ullmann has a laughable wig-based cameo as Corden’s estranged ‘mom’, whilst Streep just about manages to keep her dignity intact.
Why James Corden has been cast as a flamboyant gay man in a film from Ryan Murphy – the brain behind so many groundbreaking, inclusive series from Glee to American Horror Story and recently Ratched, is anyone’s guess. It may be musical Marmite, and perhaps this is a fair recreation of the Broadway show, but the effervescence feels forced at times, bludgeoned by the rigorous camp theatrics. The Prom’s message is fantastic – acceptance; loving people for who they are – but its saccharine, lumpen execution is often hard to bear.
Available on Netflix now
words KEIRON SELF