Comedy/Musical/Romance, 2 hr 10 min
Log line: A troupe of hilariously self-obsessed theater stars swarm into a small conservative Indiana town in support of a high school girl who wants to take her girlfriend to the prom.
you’ll have a hell of a good time in the brightly colored, heartwarming, feel good, musical world of The Prom!
I laughed, I cried, I danced, I cheered. Ryan Murphy’s latest film The Prom jumps out at you from your screen and grabs you by the collar from the opening musical notes, not letting you go until the very end. Theater nerds and queer folks, your wait for this feel-good, beautifully brave film adaptation of the original musical is over! Starring legendary actors Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Kerry Washington, James Corden, and Keegan-Michael Key, The Prom tells the story of an NYC struggling theater troupe jetting off to a small Indiana town to save prom for two young women in love. The girls in question, Emma Nolan and Alyssa Greene, are portrayed by newcomers Jo Ellen Pellman and Ariana DeBose. Your heart is captured from the moment you meet sunny and optimistic Emma (Pellman), and you are left in awe of her strength and courage in the face of discrimination and hardship. The New York theater stars leave you amused and laughing at their wacky antics—you can’t help but cheer for them in their efforts to support Emma and save the prom. No matter which characters you fall in love with, one thing’s for certain—you’ll have a hell of a good time in the brightly colored, heartwarming, feel good, musical world of The Prom!
Fun fact, this film was based on a musical of the same name, which was then based off a true story. We begin with the main conflict of the story—the head of Edgewater High School’s PTA, Mrs. Greene (Kerry Washington), announcing to the press that the school prom had been cancelled. Why, you might ask? All because one student wanted to attend with her girlfriend. It all just seemed so unfair and backwards, but watching Emma keep a smile and hold her head up high during her first number “Just Breathe” made me feel hopeful for her.
Seeing some of the “big-name” actors in their roles was very interesting to me, specifically Meryl Streep, Kerry Washington, James Corden, and Keegan-Michael Key. I’ve seen people across social media state mixed opinions on whether or not these actors were suited for their roles or whether they even offered solid performances. In my opinion at least, I really appreciated seeing: Key in a serious authoritative role, when he normally does comedy; Washington as a conservative black woman in power; and Corden as an out gay Broadway star carrying around years of family rejection. While I thought that these actors did a great job in their respective roles, overall, I found the performances to be good, not great.
I loved the chemistry between Emma and Alyssa, and really felt for Alyssa’s plight especially. Sure, she’s popular, smart, and successful, sure she has a lot of things going for her—but at the end of the day, she is Mrs. Greene’s daughter, and she feels suffocated under the pressure to be perfect. She cannot be out and proud like Emma can. While I notice that this same “queer in the closet as a conflict” trope was also used in films like Lez Bomb and Happiest Season, and is beginning to become overused, I recognize that it is a very real truth for a lot of LGBTQ+ community members living in unsafe or intolerant environments. On the flip side, Barry (James Corden) and Emma found a friend in each other after learning they were both rejected by their parents after coming out. I absolutely adored the gay and lesbian solidarity between them, and how Murphy used his queer identity to make their stories as authentic as possible. Say what you want about The Prom, but you can’t deny the very real importance of having queer filmmakers and writers telling queer stories!
Some other things I liked were the choreography, beautiful lighting, set design, and costume design. As well as the fact that the word “lesbian” was used more than once to refer to Emma. I have found so many films and series using the word “gay” as a blanket term to refer to women who identify as queer. Which is not necessarily a bad thing—queer women can use whatever identifying terms they are comfortable with, or even use different terms interchangeably, how they see fit. But in my experience at least, it was so refreshing to hear the word “lesbian” when so often it is seen as a dirty or taboo word. Thank you, Ryan Murphy!
Some things I found unrealistic were the anti-LGBTQ discrimination in a small town in 2020 and the PTA’s determination to double down on cancelling the prom, despite media attention. I also felt that the film went on a little too long; with a run time of about 2 hours, I think that it could’ve done with cutting one or two scenes. In the end, I loved The Prom and thought it was a feel-good film, bursting with music and heart and inspiration. I just wish the focus was more on Alyssa and Emma, rather than making it about the narcissistic Broadway stars trying to redeem themselves. After all, their story is the one that matters. On the other hand, I think this is a big step for mainstream lesbian and queer representation, even if it means putting big stars like Meryl Streep and James Corden in the spotlight.
I don’t know about you, but I definitely was hooked by the catchy musical numbers and that warm fuzzy feeling. I think a wide variety of audiences will enjoy this film–especially if you like musicals, happy endings for lesbians, the Broadway scene, or the ever-American tradition of proms. Which I have to say, as an American myself, Murphy definitely captured the excitement and anticipation of prom and the weeks leading up to it. A very well done movie! If you need another reason to watch the musical, it is this—if you liked upbeat movies like Pitch Perfect, Mamma Mia, or Forever Not Maybe, then you will definitely like The Prom. So log into your Netflix account (or find a friend’s to use), and watch it now with your favorite drink and a cozy blanket!
Watch the trailer
Written By Shawna
Editor, Reviewer, Writer
Independent screenwriter and director with the focus of telling stories for and about women, people of color, the LGBTQ+ community, and other marginalized groups.