It’s a fruitless request but somebody needs to ask Ryan Murphy to slow down. The mega-producer, who is behind dozens of major TV series including American Horror Story, Pose, Ratched and Feud, has his fingers in many pies at any time of the year. How he took the time out to direct an extravagant A-list musical is somewhat miraculous, but he’s pulled it off, presenting The Prom exclusively for Netflix.
Unsurprisingly, though, the film simply feels like an extension of Murphy’s artistry, rather than an evolution. Its mileage may vary depending on how much viewers enjoyed the song-and-dance routines of Glee, the pastel palettes of Hollywood, or the swirling camerawork in all of the shows aforementioned. Regardless, it’s hard to see The Prom as anything other than a wheel-spinning exercise in form, narrative and theme for the filmmaker.
Based on the Broadway musical of the same name, The Prom revolves around a quartet of sardonic theatre stars – played by James Corden (with a grating American accent), Meryl Streep, Andrew Rannells and Nicole Kidman – who badly need a career stimulus after their latest shows fail to attract an audience. Browsing Twitter for trending news stories, they learn of a gay high-school student in Indiana (Jo Ellen Pellman), who is banned from attending her prom with her girlfriend. This decision is made by the head of the conservative parent-teacher association (Kerry Washington), whose power overrides that of the principal (Keegan-Michael Key), who is actually very supportive of an inclusive prom. The actors head over to the school and offer their support in a desperate attempt to improve their public image.
It has the potential to be a scathing satire of how celebrities co-opt social issues for their own gain but it doesn’t follow through with this strong premise. The film remains centred on these self-absorbed individuals and none of them are likeable. When the third act falls back on cloying sentimentality to vindicate them, it’s hard to sympathise. Then there’s the music: there are zero showstoppers. The end credits song may make a bid for an Official Charts Top 40 placement though – it’s the sort of generic pop single that could register with the masses.
The Prom is released digitally on Friday 11th December 2020.
Watch the trailer for The Prom here: