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Non-Review Review: The Prom

The Prom arrives on Netflix as part of director Ryan Murphy’s deal with the streaming service, similar to the adaptation of The Boys in the Band.

On one level, The Prom is perfectly suited to Murphy’s aesthetic as a director. It is an adaptation of a Broadway musical about Broadway musicals, one that collides with a stereotypical depiction of the American heartland in a way that invites a heightened and almost caricatured version of both. The Prom is a larger than life production, and feels very much of a piece with Murphy’s output as writer, director and producer – from American Horror Story to Ratchet to Glee. There is no sense that any approach to The Prom could ever be “too much”, and so it’s a good fit for Murphy.

Making a whole production of it.

At the same time, The Prom ultimately feels rather empty. Murphy is very good at offering stylised hyperreal worlds, but The Prom feels like a hollow confection. This problem is compounded by a tonal issue; the movie is never entirely sure how cynical or how earnest it wants to be, and so is frequently caught halfway between extremes. The Prom never seems entirely sure whether it’s a brutal parody of feel-good nonsense or a triumphant example of escapist entertainment, so it never works in either register.

This is a shame, given the talent involved in the production and the occasional momentum that the film manages to build through its high-energy song-and-dance numbers and its game cast. Sadly, though, it never manages to hit the high notes that it needs to.

It’s a bit Broad(way)…

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