The Prom (2020) Film Review

Dee Dee (Merryl Streep) and Barry (James Cordon) are Broadway stars whose show collapses on opening night, a failure blamed partially on their narcissism. To try to reinvent themselves, they decide they need to take on a cause – and they hatch the plan with fellow performers Angie (Nicole Kidman) and Trent (Andrew Rannells) that the cause is that a lesbian high schooler has been banned from attending prom with her girlfriend. So they head to Indiana to use what skills they have to save the day.

There was a lot of discussion about the casting of James Cordon as a gay man in the main role, partly because there are plenty of gay men in musical theatre, and partly because often gay male characters are played with excessive camp, coming across as offensive stereotypes. I grit my teeth when I hit play, expecting the worst. I thought he was fine. I didn’t think it was a great performance from Cordon (and this may have been in part because his accent felt so forced), but at least it wasn’t completely cartoonish. It certainly raises that discussion about casting (should gay characters be played by straight actors?) but also is the name of the star cast more important that getting someone who truly suits the character being depicted?

For me, I mostly enjoyed it. There were some really strong performances (Streep was great, as was Kerry Washington) and I really enjoyed a lot of the songs and the dance sequences. A few were quite awful, but tolerable. I’m not going to be racing out to see it again, but it was a kind of fun way to spend an evening.

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