Published Dec 08, 2020In 2010, Constance McMillen was a senior at Itawamba Agricultural High School in Fulton, Mississippi. After announcing her plans to bring her girlfriend to their senior prom and wear a tux, the school board banned her from attending. When McMillen decided to challenge the school's decision, the board cancelled the prom altogether.
Inspired by McMillen's story, Jack Viertel created the musical The Prom, which premiered on Broadway in 2018. The play follows four washed-up Broadway actors as they search for a publicity stunt to revive their careers and stumble upon the fictionalized version of McMillen's story, travelling to the small town of Edgewater, Indiana to help the teenager. The Prom, released by Netflix in 2020, is a musical comedy adapted to screen from the Broadway original, where Ryan Murphy succeeds in sucking every last drop of heart from the initial story.
The first fifteen minutes of The Prom promises a lighthearted get-away to the glittering streets of Broadway, but never quite returns to that rosy beginning. By definition the film screams camp, and although Murphy has defined his directorial career with gaudy costumes, large set designs, and quirky dialogue, this film drags beyond belief. The plot meanders, the songs flop and the dance scenes are cringe-inducing. Murphy, a director known for his stunning aesthetics, has decided to light numerous scenes in a high school theatre-esque yellow light that only accentuates the horrible shade matches of the cast's makeup.
James Corden's portrayal of a gay Broadway actor is specifically touchy, leaning too often into stereotypes during a movie about LGBTQ+ inclusivity. It makes you wonder why Murphy's team chose to cast a straight actor for the role in the first place. Although Meryl Streep's presence as Broadway superstar Dee Dee Allen and Keegan-Michael Key as the love-struck high school principal add a pinch of life to a project that is otherwise overflowing with corny performances, the main romance plot between high school seniors Emma (Jo Ellen Pellman) and Alyssa (Ariana DeBose) is underdeveloped and devoid of chemistry.
The Prom says nothing ground-breaking or even mildly interesting about growing up gay in America's Bible Belt. It also manages to do a great disservice to the original Broadway musical based on self-acceptance and pride.