In the year of 2020, people are hard-pressed to find pieces of life that are simply joyous. If you’re in need of an epic pick-me-up, look no further than Netflix’s The Prom. With an all-star cast, fantastic visual elements and incredible costuming, the film will have you laughing and in tears.
The Prom follows two stories: one of a girl named Emma (Jo Ellen Pellman), who wants nothing more than to take her girlfriend to the school prom. However, the parent/teacher’s association is heavily against it and decides to cancel prom altogether to avoid any lawsuits. At the same time, four Broadway actors who are down on their luck are looking for some good publicity and find Emma’s story on Twitter. They decide to travel to Indiana to fight for Emma and bring some LGBTQ+ activism to her small, conservative town.
The show originally started as a Broadway musical by Matthew Sklar, Chad Beguelin, Bob Martin and Jack Viertel. The musical ran on Broadway from October 2018 to August 2019, earning nominations for several Tony Awards and winning the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Musical. The production was hailed by fans, so there were a lot of nerves when it was announced that Ryan Murphy, notorious for his poor writing skills, would have director and producer credits for the project. However, the film was a smash.
The film’s success is largely due to Alexa L. Fogel’s casting direction with powerhouses like Meryl Streep, Andrew Rannells and Nicole Kidman. All three have extensive screen and stage experience, so it’s no surprise that their performances are wonderful. In fact, The Prom is Streep’s best musical performance to date, and Rannells and Kidman each get money songs that bring the house down.
Other big names like Kerry Washington, Tracey Ullman and Kevin Chamberlin all give wonderful performances and, with such a strong cast, were almost underused (especially Chamberlin!). There’s also no question that Broadway veteran Ariana DeBose and up-and-comer Pellman are overwhelmingly charming and fun to root for throughout the film.
But two performances that stand out above the others are Keegan Michael Key and James Corden. Key is known for his more raunchy, comedic style (see Key and Peele or Friends From College). However, his character in the film is the biggest sweetheart known to man and the pinnacle for what all straight men should be. From his budding romance with Streep to his love of musical theater, Key’s performance is nothing short of a gift.
Corden was the more controversial casting that created a lot of online controversy, even sparking blogs about other actors who should’ve been cast in the role. However, though it took a minute to warm up to him, Corden ended up being a fantastic choice for Barry.
Traditionally, he’s meant to be around the same age as Dee Dee (Streep), but their friendship dynamic and Corden’s acting chops really bleed through every scene. He's adorable and entirely memorable.
The costuming and visual elements really make the film fantastic. Lou Eyrich perfectly encapsulates each character’s style with their ensembles, and every single outfit Streep’s character rocks is breathtaking. Matthew Libatique’s cinematography and Peggy Tachdijan and Danielle Wang’s film editing prowess make the film incredible.
There’s always a huge issue with making a musical into a film. There are a lot of elements that are created specifically for the stage that can be lost in a film adaptation, and with Murphy’s name attached to the project, there was a lot of concern regarding the quality the film would possess.
However, the entire cast and crew found a way to keep the integrity and the grandiosity of a musical while properly incorporating film elements that shoot the final product above and beyond expectations. If anything, The Prom proves that Murphy should just stick to directing rather than writing.
Within the few weeks it’s been out, I’ve probably watched it around 10 times. The Prom is arguably the best part of 2020 and, by far, the greatest way to ring in the new year.