Ryan Murphy‘s adaptation of the 2018 Broadway musical, The Prom, came out two weeks ago. Despite initially being put off by the liberal narrative, I watched it and was pleasantly surprised. Funnily enough, however, most audiences had the opposite response.
Before we get started, if you haven’t seen the trailer, watch it here:
The Prom came out on Netflix on Friday the 11th of December 2020. I love a good musical so I was keen to watch it but had my reservations that it would be nothing more than a lecture on inclusivity – a message we are bombarded with ad nauseam. Still, the trailer was appealing and the film includes stars such as Andrew Rannells, James Corden, Meryl Streep, and Nicole Kidman, who have more than proven themselves in the musical industry, on stage and screen.
So, I settled in expecting to roll my eyes for most of the next 2 hours and ended up loving the movie!
What I Liked
THE THEATRE OF IT
This sense of it being a broadway production really stood out for me. The energy of the film from start to end, the music, lighting, choreography, costumes and set design, all truly make it feel like you’re moving dynamically through scenes on a stage. Being able to capture that magic is special and something that I had never quite experienced before.
From the moment the opening titles start, the film already has that sense of the grandeur of a big-budget on-stage musical production, which we’ve been deprived of for most of the year, thanks to COVID-19. Not only does the music set the tone for a big, feel-good, and inspiring journey but the bright colours and shimmering sequins, that are prevalent throughout the movie, further build your excitement for what’s to come.
We are immediately thrust into a surprisingly engaging story. After some research to compare the on-stage production with the movie adaptation, there are some intentional changes made by Murphy that, I believe, improved the story and pacing, in general, but particularly for on-screen. Adding or reordering of scenes, as well as shortening of certain numbers made the narrative flow better.
While kept very close to the Broadway version, the Netflix adaptation of The Prom amplifies the production. The film feels bigger from the soundtrack to the sets, and is more stylised, really pushing light and colours, which also help tell the story.
Matthew Sklar, who wrote the music for the original stage production, was also involved in the movie version. This must have been an incredible opportunity to bring his music to life in a grander way than before.
Having listened to the original Broadway cast recording, the instrumentals, in particular, feel so much fuller, thanks to a bigger orchestra and significantly larger production budget. Without this comparison, though, I was blown away by the richness of the composition of the Netflix version, which I think was integral in creating that enveloping big broadway feeling.
Sklar is no stranger to theatre and TV, having worked on productions such as Shrek: The Musical and numerous Tony Awards Shows. The Prom really showed off his abilities and, in my opinion, is what makes the story. The soundtrack is a masterpiece that sweeps you up in the emotions and energy of each number. This, paired with renowned vocal talent, lively choreography, and the actors’ performances make this a truly enthralling experience.
While all actors played their part in making The Prom an engaging experience, Meryl Streep, unsurprisingly stole the show. The 71-year-old actress not only showed us more of her singing ability, but she danced with unbelievable agility. Streep is a master of her craft, for sure, but I was really impressed by her vigour, which is something we haven’t had the opportunity to see in recent years.
It was refreshing to see her portrayal of Dee Dee Allen. After playing more serious roles for the past couple of years, you could tell she enjoyed playing this character and really sold that she was a narcissistic Broadway diva. It was impressive and entertaining to watch.
What I Didn’t Like
The main thing I struggled with, initially, was the relevance of the story. The story centres around a lesbian teenager from Indiana who wants to go to the prom with her girlfriend. The parents of the school don’t want a “homosexual prom” and so the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) of the school decides to rather cancel the prom for everyone.
While the production is based on a true story, the incident that sparked the concept happened 10 years ago (2010). A lot of progress has been made since then in being a more inclusive society, so this sort of reaction would not be allowed to happen in modern times, and I felt the situation was outdated.
That being said, I soon realised that my preconception of what the objective of the film was, and my resistance to this narrative were one part of it and that there was so much more to this film. Beyond the impeccable production quality that made every second of The Prom enjoyable, at the end of the day, plausible in current times or not, the message of the story was positive and uplifting, in the same way that Hairspray tells a similar story in many ways. As soon as I got over that hurdle in my mind, I sat back and enjoyed the movie and loved it.
As mentioned earlier, though, many people did not have the same experience.
What Are People Complaining About?
The biggest criticism of the film is the casting of James Corden as the flamboyant Barry Glickman. The media and public have been brutal in reviews of the movie and of Corden’s “stereotypical” portrayal of a gay man, which many have called offensive. Several have questioned the choice and argued that gay actors such as Tituss Burgess or Andrew Rannells (who is in the film), would have been better suited. Others felt that the issue is not that James Corden’s portrayal was bad, but that his talent was altogether lacking.
I find the criticism unfair and short-sighted. Not only is the whole movie LGBTQ+ positive, but it’s directed by Ryan Murphy – an openly gay man. Corden’s portrayal was directed by Murphy, so it’s more a matter of preference than it is about it being offensive. Beyond this, James Corden is unquestionably talented with dozens of theatre, TV, and film performances under his belt. In addition, there are a few emotional scenes in the film where Corden shows his more vulnerable side and acting range. So, it’s unfair to say he isn’t talented simply because you would’ve preferred another actor in his place.
IT REMINDS THEM OF GLEE
A recurring theme on social media was that The Prom was basically just a movie version of Glee, also a Ryan Murphy production. As someone who watched, and loved, Glee, this movie did not remind me of Glee at all other than it being a musical set in a high school.
Comments likening The Prom to Glee weren’t all bad though and some Gleeks really loved that they could get another fix after the TV show ended in 2015.
Regardless, I’d argue that the association with Glee, Ryan Murphy, and musicals is probably the main reason for this perception. I hope it doesn’t discourage him from creating musicals in the future.
This will always happen when stories are retold or when a stage production is translated onto screen, but several fans have taken to social media to condemn the film. Some of the criticisms have been that the varied portrayal of some of the characters in the movie took away from the essence of the characters in the play. Others urged people to listen to the orginal Broadcast cast recording of the soundtrack rather to credit the performers who put The Prom on the map.
IT’S JUST BAD
There is an expected element of cheesiness to it, as it’s a whimsical musical. Musicals are largely 2-dimensional, as is characteristic of the genre. This was also very obvious from the trailer so I’m not sure why people were expecting Les Misérables… That doesn’t mean, though, that it isn’t enjoyable if you know what you’re in for.
While some people are picking the movie apart for numerous reasons, some can’t quite put a finger on why they didn’t enjoy it and simply sum it up to being a bad film. I believe that it is largely attributable to the initial wave of negativity after the film’s release. People don’t understand the influence they have over others, and this is evident with The Prom, with audiences seeing the sentiment towards the movie and not knowing how they should feel about it.
That said, what’s been quite prevalent is the guilty pleasure of enjoying it. The heart of the film, particularly the gay love aspect, soundtrack, and certain cast members, have been standout themes.
🎼 It may seem corny or kitsch 🎶 but The Prom is a fun, light-hearted, and inspiring movie that tells an important story of acceptance, love, and standing up for what is right. Do not get put off by the negativity of other people’s opinions. Whether you agree with my views or not, watch it and make up your mind for yourself.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but the uninformed comments and criticism of The Prom being offensive and homophobic cannot be taken seriously. I watched it not expecting to enjoy it but ended up loving it. It all comes down to the lens you choose to look through. You can choose to be put off, or you can focus on the positive. You can either ignore the point of the film and berate the cast and crew for not doing it according to your preference, or you can recognise that heavy-weights in the entertainment industry are pushing an important message, with the backing of very influential people of the queer community endorsing it.
The Prom is out on Netflix worldwide, with the soundtrack available on all streaming services. Their social media game has also been on point, with a virtual Prom on YouTube, so check that out too.
References & Additional Reading:
- The Prom – Netflix
- The State of the LGBTQ Community in 2020 – Center for American Progress
- Coach says she was fired from Indiana Lutheran high school for being gay – Outsports
- Population Density of Same-Sex Couples: Indiana – UCLA School of Law Williams Institute
- 2010 Itawamba County School District prom controversy – Wikipedia
- Why film musicals like ‘The Prom’ Netflix shut out stage actors – Los Angeles Times
- How Ariana Debose Went From Broadway to Hollywood in The Prom on Netflix – Broadway Direct
- James Corden Should Have Been Banned from The Prom – Vanity Fair
- Netflix’s The Prom Isn’t the Party We Hoped For – Vulture
- The Prom: Ranking Every Song in the Movie Musical Soundtrack From Worst to Best – Den of Geek
- The Prom Debuted On Netflix On Friday. Here’s How Twitter Reacted – Elle
- This High-School Principal Had a Few Issues With Netflix’s The Prom – PopSugar
- James Corden’s Performance As Gay Man In Netflix’s The Prom Labelled ‘Horrifically Bad’ By Viewers – Lad Bible
- People Are Saying Netflix’s The Prom Is So Bad It’s Good – Tyla
- ‘He’s the best person for the job’: James Corden defended by The Prom co-star Andrew Rannells following backlash over straight actor’s ‘offensive’ portrayal of gay character – Mail Online
- Is James Corden’s Role in ‘The Prom’ Homophobic? – Vice