'The Prom' is proof that not everything needs a film adaptation

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By Ben Carpenter, Second Year, Film & Television

The Prom, released last Friday, is the first film in Ryan Murphy’s $300 million deal with Netflix. And if there is any justice in this world, it will also be the last.

James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Andrew Rannells and Meryl Streep in The Prom | Courtesy of IMDb

The Prom tells the story of 4 washed up Broadway stars, played by the weird mix of Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman and Andrew Rannells, who travel to a conservative Indiana high school to support Emma, a young lesbian portrayed by newcomer Jo Ellen Pellman, and her wish to take her girlfriend to her high school prom. Adapted from the 2018 musical of the same name, The Prom offers painful proof that not everything needs to be adapted to film.

As is usually the case with Ryan Murphy the costumes are outstanding, the cast is (mostly) stellar and the choreography is fabulous – however these factors still don’t make up for an awfully executed plot. Now don’t get me wrong. There is NOTHING I love more than a contrived, over the top, feel-good film – and it’s clear that The Prom wants to fit into this category. However, to my uncomfortable confusion, it manages to miss the mark in every possible way. From the opening sequence the film is simply weird.

Now I don’t usually like to pin the failings of a film on one individual. However, it is simply impossible not to look at James Corden in every single painful scene he puts the audience through and not think ‘this is all your fault’. Portraying Barry Glickman, a narcissistic gay Broadway star, Corden somehow manages to bruise and offend every single bone in my LGBT body.

Ariana DeBose and Jo Ellen Pellman in The Prom | Courtesy of IMDb

I don’t believe myself to be bold in stating that James Corden can’t really act. Aside from ordering a chicken bhuna, lamb bhuna, prawn bhuna, mushroom rice, bag of chips, keema naan and nine poppadoms, Corden is capable of very little more than driving a celebrity around in a four wheel-drive and interrupting every other sentence they attempt to say.

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Aside from the obvious controversies of Hollywood casting yet another straight actor in a gay role, Corden doesn’t even have enough respect for the community he is attempting to represent to veer away from a stereotypical and shallow portrayal. Whether he is flapping his wrists or rolling his eyes, watching Corden feels like we are being forcefully dragged by our hair back to the rom-coms of the 2000s, showing gay men purely as an accessory to a straight female lead. The straight female lead in question? No, not Lindsay Lohan – it’s Meryl f**king Streep.

It is simply impossible not to look at James Corden in every single painful scene he puts the audience through and not think ‘this is all your fault’

With a central LGBT theme, a queer director and an array of diverse LGBT talent behind the camera, this film should be almost revolutionary. But simply everything is wrong. The plot feels forced, the musical numbers wooden and none of the good actors are used to their full potential. At one point I forgot Nicole Kidman was even in the film.

Watching Corden feels like we are being dragged by our hair back to the rom-coms of the 2000s | Courtesy of IMDb

Unable to mix the camp with the serious, as an overall product the film feels like it has no idea what it wants to be. One minute it wants to be Burlesque (2010) and the next it’s starting to feel a whole lot like CATS (2019) – which also stars James Corden. Funny that.

In conclusion, I would simply like a refund for my ticket to the prom. And in the words of Meryl Streep in her infinitely better performance in The Devil Wears Prada (2006) – ‘That’s all’

Featured: Netflix, IMDb


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