Tuesday Review – The Prom (2020)

films, reviews

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

As soon as I saw the trailer for this on Netflix, I knew that it wasn’t going to be the film for me. It just looked stupid and just sitting through a short preview made me cringe. Yet, part of me did want to watch it. I was intrigued about just how bad it was going to be. I wanted to see just how embarrassingly awful James Corden’s performance turned out. How over-the-top and unsubtle Ryan Murphy’s message of inclusivity was. How cheesy the choreography would be. I knew that I’d watch it eventually so it was just a question of when. I decided that, whatever happened, I couldn’t let it be the first film that I watched in 2021 because that would have felt as though I was jinxing my entire year. It also felt like the most appropriate film to end 2020 on. After all, the year has been a huge shit show. It’s not as if this film could make it anyway worse. And maybe it would put everything into perspective?

As I’ve discussed time and time again, there is a big difference between supporting a film’s message while still criticising the film itself. I don’t think it’s fair to give a film a pass because it’s trying to do something positive. The message at the heart of Ryan Murphy’s adaptation of this Broadway musical is admirable and I am always down for films that champion inclusivity of any kind. I think the story is a noble one and it clearly has worthy intentions. However, that doesn’t mean we ignore any potential flaws it might have. This is still a piece of content made for entertainment purposes and, as such, it deserves to be treated in the same way as other films. We need to be able to separate it from its message. I admit, that this is a shame for The Prom because I really didn’t find it all that entertaining.

The film tells the story of Emma, a High School student in Indiana, who is responsible for getting her Prom cancelled because she wanted to bring her female date. The PTA objected to the idea of same-sex partners and decided that the best course of action was to shut it down completely. This has caused great backlash with her fellow students and has caused something of a social media storm. This is how a group of 4 struggling Broadway actors comes to hear of it and, in an attempt to find themselves some much-needed good press, they descend upon the small town to help. Unfortunately, they only seem to make things worse and Emma ends up even more isolated. Can the actors put their egos aside and actually help this young girl get the Prom experience that she’s always dreamed of?

The basic story is an important one and I think it’s always great to highlight the homophobia that still exists in society. The problem is the way that message is dealt with. The Prom is such a mess of a film. Not only is it far far too long. It just drags along and there are definite strands that could have been dropped. Like the awkward romance between Meryl Streep’s Broadway icon and the principal of the school. Then there are the musical numbers, which are incredibly hit and miss. Of course, that could be more down to the performers than the songs themselves. I’ve not seen the stage play so it’s possible things could be different in that setting. In this context, they just seem bad.

Speaking of bad, we have to talk James Corden. Now, I’m not the kind of person who necessarily thinks that only gay actors should play gay characters but I do think there is such a thing as appropriate casting. James Corden is not appropriate casting for this role. For one thing, his accent is horrendous. For another, his idea of a gay actor is to just camp it up like he’s in a 1970s sitcom. James Corden’s method for playing gay is to add a slight lisp and keep his wrist permanently limp. There’s no attempt at nuance or sensitivity here. You’re really telling me that there was no other actor, gay or straight, who could have played that role? Absurd. He’s not even that great a singer. Putting him in a film with Andrew Rannells just feels like bullying.

This is a case of Ryan Murphy and co being trusted with more money than they should have been. This film is trying too hard on every level. It’s got big names in the cast regardless of their suitability. The sets are ugly, the colour design is garish, the choreography is weak, the editing is bad, and the narrative is handled badly. There is far too much positivity here. It’s all too easy. I’m here for the positive message but this film makes it hard to see why homophobia even exists at all. All it need is for actors to talk to people. I know this film was aiming for a happy ending but it’s all wrapped up too neatly. Seriously, it’s like a fucking Shakespeare play. This is meant to be an uplifting message and it needed to be handled with care. It doesn’t seem as though there was any care when this film was made. The Prom just got way out of hand.

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