‘The Prom’ isn’t the gay musical celebration Ryan Murphy wanted
Oh boy, Ryan Murphy. One of the most divisive figures in the film and television industry. He’s definitely at the center of a debate for style vs substance, where we can really fall in quality entertainment. Do we really need to bring up Ratchet or Glee or some of the seasons of American Horror Story? It’s just difficult getting excited about a Ryan Murphy project when they are all a mixed bag.
Now he’s back to high school with The Prom, the Broadway musical from 2018 made into a 2020 movie. With some series star power behind it, we have to ask . . . is it good? The 2018 musical in and of itself is charming and sweet, taking place in a small town where a girl just wants to take her girlfriend to the prom and a group of Broadway actors take them as their pet cause to get into the spotlight.
Ask anyone who has tangential knowledge about the movie business, they’ll tell that adaptations are hard to do. For every Chicago, there’s a Nine, you know? Musical adaptations can be hits or miss in pretty spectacular ways. Look at Cats, which was so bad that it probably kickstarted the apocalyptic hellscape that’s 2020 in a nutshell. Cats broke the final seal.
It also had James Corden in it. Both of these films did actually. Maybe he just needs to cool it with the musical movies for a while.
While The Prom was better received, then Cats. Its nothing . . . exciting. It’s flashy and it’s bright and there’s Meryl Streep, but there’s nothing that really grabs you in about it. Nothing that quite captures the excitement and fun of the Broadway show, you know? More to the point, some of the portrayals in The Prom come off as disingenuous. After all, James Corden playing a flamboyantly gay character? Um.
And then he sings the song about being disowned by his midwestern parents. It’s a fear that most LGBTQ+ people have when they come out. It just . . . there’s a disconnect here. There’s a disconnect between the way Corden sings the song vs the way Brooks Ashmanskas nailed it on Broadway.
Did no one even think to call Nathan Lane?
That’s not to say that people have to stay in their lane in regard to their sexuality when playing certain characters. In his own disparaging review at Vanity Fair, Richard Lawson said that judging someone straight playing a queer character comes down to a snap judgement, an “I know it when I see it” sort of mindset. Jonathan Groff and Matt Bomer have believably played straight characters just as Trevante Rhodes and Darren Criss played gay ones.
It’s something that you see and you get all in on. It’s hard to explain really. Basically, Corden just plays into every single horrible stereotype out there. It ruins the enjoyment of the movie vastly. Again, it’s a shame because the musical itself was short-lived but a ton of fun. The young couple at the center of the film played by LGBTQ+ identifying actresses, Jo Ellen Pellman and Ariana DeBose, are great. They’re fantastic. Super cute.
Even Pellman and DeBose’s sweetness at the center of the film, it’s just a case for finding a compilation of their songs on YouTube versus sitting and cringing through the rest of The Prom. It’s hard and disappointing to watch all around, outside of Pellman and DeBose’s performances.
Sure, The Prom has a 61% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. But after 2020, anything bright and sweet is sure to give people some sort of joy in a landscape so starved of it.
Can we please just stop giving James Corden musical roles?