The Prom is a new movie on Netflix based on a Broadway musical of the same name about a handful of Broadway stars looking to clean up their image by taking on a random cause. The cause in question is a prom in Indiana that the PTA would rather cancel than allow a gay student to attend with her girlfriend. It’s a pretty gay musical that Ryan Murphy manages to make bigger, better, and gayer than ever, with boatloads of sequins and buckets of wigs, and the shiniest, sparkliest cast he could assemble.
Dee Dee (Meryl Streep) is a veteran stage actress, a Broadway phenom with a Tony in her purse and an outsized sense of entitlement. When we meet her, she’s starring in the opening night of Eleanor, a musical about Eleanor Roosevelt. Co-starring as FDR is Barry (James Corden), a Broadway mainstay who’s still chasing that first Tony, and hoping this might be it. Unfortunately, a bad review pretty much shuts them down on that first night, and someone has the temerity to point out that it’s not so much that the show is bad as that the two of them are so disliked. They’re narcissists, they’re told, though they’re not convinced that’s such a bad thing. But in the best interest of their careers, they decide to rehab their reputations by support a cause (a cause celebre, they specify) along with Broadway actor “between gigs” Trent (Andrew Rannells) and inveterate chorus girl Angie (Nicole Kidman), who ride the next bus out of town toward homophobic Indiana.
Emma (Jo Ellen Pellman) is the sweet teenage girl who just wants to take her girlfriend to prom. Alyssa (Ariana DeBose) is her closeted girlfriend and the daughter of Mrs. Greene (Kerry Washington), the “homosexual prom’s” #1 opponent. Principal Tom (Keegan-Michael Key) does what he can to mitigate the damage but he’s pretty powerless with so much opposition. Plus, now he’s start struck on top of everything else – he’s Dee Dee’s biggest fan.
As our Broadway do-gooders get to know Emma and her situation, what started out as a charitable act of self-interest turns into something a little more genuine, although the unironic, attention-hogging performance of It’s Not About Me had its charms. Both the songs and the film are uneven, but they’re also so much fun, who cares? I didn’t particularly buy Nicole Kidman as a mere chorus girl either, but do you hear me complaining? No. Because singing and dancing have put so much joy in my heart I should feel ashamed to ask for anything more.
The Prom is not a great movie, but it is boisterous, glittery good fun, full of beautiful costumes, beautiful voices, and a totally stacked cast. Ryan Murphy doesn’t do subtle, but he does have an eye for a fantastic musical number and this movie has north of a dozen. Though the feeling may be flitting, you can’t help but feel good while watching it, and what a perfect way to spend an evening near the holidays. The Prom is pure indulgence – tacky, campy, cheesy, and unforgivably feel-good. So feel it.