The Prom: 10 Questions to Ponder After Watching the New Netflix Musical
When it comes to Netflix’s star-studded production of The Prom, one thing’s universal: this movie is a lot of fun. And mostly for the right reasons!
Based on the short-lived Broadway musical, The Prom tells the story of Emma (newcomer Jo Ellen Pellman), an Indiana high schooler who isn’t allowed to attend the dance with her girlfriend Alyssa (Hamilton‘s Ariana DeBose). Well, that’s part of the story, at least. The movie is mostly about a quartet of washed-up actors — Dee Dee (Meryl Streep), Barry (James Corden), Trent (Andrew Rannells) and Angie (Nicole Kidman) — who decide to advocate for Emma in a last-ditch attempt at relevancy.
What ensues is a musical clash of ideologies, with school principal Tom (Keegan-Michael Key) joining the celebs in their fight against sinister PTA president Mrs. Greene (Kerry Washington), who also happens to be Alyssa’s mother. The plot, it is thick!
Two hours and 17 minutes later, everything turns out OK — it is a musical, after all — but that doesn’t mean we aren’t left with a few questions. To that end, here are 10 follow-up thoughts we have about The Prom:
1. First things first: Why Corden? Critics’ biggest complaint across the board is Corden’s “offensive” performance as a gay man. Frankly, we’re surprised that Murphy — who recently brought us a Broadway production and film of The Boys in the Band featuring an all-gay cast — would put a straight man in the role of Barry, considering how much more weight a gay actor could have brought to the performance. (Bonus question: Which out gay actor would you have liked to see as Barry?)
2. Did anyone else feel like they were watching a really long episode of Glee? We swear we’re not just asking this because it was directed by Ryan Murphy. The vibrant colors, the podunk town that’s clearly getting money from somewhere, Trent’s entire backstory… it all felt extremely Glee-ful. And not in a bad way.
3. Where has Washington been hiding that voice?! If you happened to catch the former Scandal star’s performance of “Joy to the World” during ABC’s Disney Holiday Singalong, then Washington’s impressive pipes probably didn’t take you by surprise. So this one’s for everybody else: “What the what?!” Seriously, they should have written a new song just for her, runtime be damned. (Honorable mention to Key, whose last name perfectly matches his beautiful singing voice.)
4. How long did it take you to figure out that the first prom was a fake? Seriously, what gave it away for you? Was it when they cut to the real dance and it looked nothing like a high school gymnasium? Or was it when Emma’s truck was clearly the only vehicle in the parking lot? Either way, it took far too long for these characters to put the pieces together. How any of them even manage to get out of bed in the morning without hurting themselves is beyond us.
5. Did we get enough of Emma? We’re just going to say it — the story focuses too much on the Broadway actors and not enough on Emma and Alyssa’s relationship. Even after multiple viewings, it feels like they’re given the same amount of screen time as their bullies. Actually, let’s talk about those jerks for a second…
6. How are we supposed to feel about all these homophobic teens? We understand that they change their ways in the end, but we were subjected to so many musical numbers involving Emma’s happy-go-lucky bullies — from the promposals to the dance itself, and beyond — that I have to ask: Were we supposed to care about them? And on a related note…
7. For a town full of raging homophobes, wasn’t there a surprising amount of well-choreographed musical numbers? Just saying.
8. How did anyone even know that Emma wanted to take a girl to prom? Maybe things have changed since we went to high school [mumble] years ago, but we weren’t asked who we were taking as our date when we bought our prom tickets. And if they did ask Emma, what did she say? Her secret girlfriend?
9. Does the PTA really have that much power? Or any power, really? Parents, please correct me if I’m wrong, but does the head of the PTA usually walk around like they’re the mayor of the town? In her defense, Washington does technically own any room she’s standing in, but I’m talking about real life. For once.
10. Most importantly: This actually happened?! The Prom is loosely based on the story of Constance McMillen, a Mississippi student who fought to go to prom with her girlfriend in 2010. In response to her courage, several celebrities — including Lance Bass and Green Day — pitched in to throw an inclusive prom for everyone. Is it not wild (and heartbreaking) to think that was just 10 years ago?
OK, your turn to talk: What did you think of The Prom? And which burning questions (rhetorical or otherwise) would you add to our list? Grade the movie, then drop a comment below.
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