Thursday, December 10, 2020

A musical that's all exclamation points!!!


      Garish and bubbly, The Prom makes no attempt to disguise its message, something on the order of the now-familiar yard sign that says, "We believe love is love." 
     Put another way, The Prom  tells us that a high school senior who happens to be a lesbian should be treated no differently than any other teenager. She should be able to attend her high school prom with her girlfriend.
     Of course, if Emma (Jo Ellen Pellman) were easily able to attend the prom with her girlfriend (Ariana DeBose), there's no movie ...
    Director Ryan Murphy, working from a screenplay by Bob Martin and Chad Beguelin, does what the Broadway production of The Prom did: He follows a scenario in which four not-entirely-successful Broadway actors travel to middle America -- specifically Indiana -- to oppose the bigoted forces that want to cancel the prom because they're outraged at the prospect of having "a gay prom."
    To make the movie version, the filmmakers have swallowed an A-list pill, employing the services of Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, and James Cordon
    Watching The Prom, I wondered whether every cast member was required to down a case of Red Bull before filming. If you like high energy, The Prom provides it and for the first hour or so it works so hard to be giddy you can almost feel it sweat.
    Streep portrays Dee Dee Allen, a diva of Broadway musicals, who -- along with Cordon's Barry Glickman -- is coming off a massive flop, a musical about Eleanor Roosevelt. 
     In trying to assay what went wrong, Barry, who describes himself as "gay as a box of wigs,” decides that the actors must change their images. They must prove that they're not narcissists, that care about something.
    Joined by chorus girl Angie (Kidman) and actor turned bartender Trent Oliver (Andrew Rannells), they set out for Indian to support Ellen's efforts to attend her prom. 
     In Indiana, they find a principal (Keegan-Michael Key) who's totally on their side and who happens to be a fan and long-time admirer of Streep's character, so much so that the story later takes a love tilt in his direction.
     Opposition to the gay prom is led by Kerry Washington's Mrs. Greene, whose daughter, it turns out, is (what else?) gay.
      The Prom -- with songs such as One Thing's Universal -- can't help but fall prey to obvious right-thinking, surrendering f the mild satirical bristle that marks the movie's first half.
     There's no faulting the performances. Kidman happily accepts a second-fiddle role that's enliven by Zazz, one of the movie's signature numbers. Cordon may have been born to appear in musicals and Rannells has fun as a failing actor who consoles himself with reminders that he once attended Juilliard.
      Streep knows how to do diva and gives it her all.
      At 131 minutes, the whole thing goes on a bit too long and the movie's mixture of glitz and sincerity won't raise the curtain on every viewer's enthusiasm. Me, for example: I'm not one to surrender to material that's delivered with nothing but exclamation points. I tended to forget each song, the minute it ended. 
       Yes, The Prom has its moments, but on screen it often feels as if it has been factory produced to become a hit. Damn, if it doesn't want to please the daylights out of us.


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