One of the pleasant surprises of the year for me is Ryan Murphy’s The Prom. Adapted from the musical of the same name, The Prom follows a group of Broadway actors who try to reclaim some positive PR by protesting the decision a high school in Indiana made to cancel prom after student Emma (Jo Ellen Pellman), expressed her desire to take a female date. Featuring the starriest cast of the year led by Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman, The Prom is a hilarious showstopping event that isn’t afraid to poke fun at the world it inhabits while simultaneously delivering a sincere message on equality and the comparisons between the two worlds.
Ryan Murphy is one of busiest men in Hollywood as he is always bringing out projects, mainly on TV and there is a common theme within all of them. His desire to put LGBT+ actors onscreen and tell their stories is clearly a passion of his and has helped create incredible shows such as American Horror Story, The Politician and my favourite, Pose. Now branching into film and it is clear that Murphy’s mission isn’t slowing down. Making sure that any LGBT+ characters are played by actors in the community is important and it has resulted in one of the best finds of the year. Also, the fact that he managed to get Streep and Kidman in one film is only a credit to his power and influence in pushing Hollywood in a more inclusive direction.
The personal highlight of this film for me goes to newcomer Jo Ellen Pellman as school outcast, Emma. Berated for her sexual orientation in a town that tries to oppress her identity, Emma has to deal with hate coming from all directions, especially because her girlfriend Alyssa is too afraid to come out. This puts Emma in a hugely isolating position where the only support she receives is from her grandmother and Principal Hawkins (Keegan-Michael Key). Not only does Pellman having the acting and singing chops needed for this role, but she really delves into Emma’s struggle to become the face for those who aren’t able to express who they are.
In support we have Meryl Streep as Broadway veteran, Dee Dee Allen, a narcissistic two time Tony winner who struggles to put anyone else before herself. There isn’t much else to say except that Streep is a force of nature and as expected, pulls off an incredible performance. Just when you think she has shown you range, she goes off and adds even more strings to her bow. Her singing is brilliant and the unpredictability of her character makes for some of the film’s funniest moments as well as keeping you on edge for what she will do next.
In a small but important role is Andrew Rannells as struggling actor, Trent Oliver. Rannells usually stars on stage and small screen and has made the jump onto film with his signature charisma. One of the best numbers in the film is a song called “Love Thy Neighbor” in which Trent teaches Emma’s school peers about how people pick and choose what to take from the Bible. It’s a turning point in the film as the general opinion towards Emma starts to change. Funnily enough, the townspeople only recognise Trent from the showbiz group from his past tenure on a tacky sitcom which he loathes and doesn’t think goes with his Julliard education.
Overall, The Prom is a wonderful film that is entertaining as well as poignant for this day and age. Featuring a cast that is among the best on stage and screen, The Prom was much better than I had anticipated. There is a lot going on a times making it hard to focus on specific characters but when the glitter has settled and the characters are given their moment in the spotlight, the film really shines. Emma’s song “Unruly Heart” which consists simply of Emma with a guitar performing her song which is being watched by fellow LGBT+ teens who are inspired by her story. The tender tone of the song and sincere message it holds makes for a hugely emotional sigh of relief for Emma’s character. This is the moment where she is unashamedly herself and isn’t afraid for everyone to know.
What did you think of The Prom? Let me know in the comments below!
The Prom is available to watch on Netflix now.