In Reviews

December 17th, 2020




The premise of Promising Young Woman is revenge. Not just getting even with one person or finding a way to regain the respect lost after defeat. This is complete revenge. The kind of vengeance that is enacted on those who had even the slightest bit of connection to the person getting their comeuppance. Emerald Fennell’s film is a banger in many ways and it’s not just because it’s filled with twists and turns. It has much more going for it. An excellent lead performance, an original concept, a collective cast that fills any gaps nicely, a cool score, a slick visual aesthetic, and above all, it leaves you talking about it. Promising Young Woman follows Cassandra Thomas (Carey Mulligan), a 30-something woman, and still working at a coffee house. In her down time, she lures men into her trap, which involves picking up a man that would willingly take advantage of her fake drunken state, and turns it on them in an embarrassing or even violent fashion. The result is a mix of shock and awe. This Promising Young Woman is going to rock your world.

This may be a symptom of the pandemic, but one of the few problems with Promising Young Woman is not seeing it rolled out into theaters, catching audiences off guard, and lighting up the debates about what it all means. For me, I felt the aim was for Fennell’s screenplay to become a new, modern day Thelma and Louise, and although it does not come close to the cultural impact that film has had, it feels relevant in our world of gender divides. It also has a vibrant attitude and embodies the loud call that women have been shouting to men over the past five years, “we’re tired of it, and we are not going to take it.” With each new layer of Cassandra’s plan that unfolds, you will either be with her or against her, but it sure is fun to watch Mulligan take on this character with confidence.

It’s not just all scheming and tricks with this narrative. Cassandra is brilliant, but her parents (played spot on by Jennifer Coolidge and Clancy Brown) can’t seem to understand why her talents are going to waste. The reasoning behind her stalemate goes back to when her best friend in medical school was raped at a college party, which led to her not being believed, ostracized, and taking her own life. This sent Cass down a spiral. She dropped out of school too and somewhere along the line would develop a plan to get back at those who did her friend wrong. But when Ryan (a delightful Bo Burnham), one of the nice guys from school shows up, Cassie starts to rethink her revengeful ways. Maybe Ryan is the man to give a chance to, or at least try to find happiness after remembering such a tragic time. Or is happiness something that Cassie will never reach, not until justice is brought to those who did her friend wrong.

Those many quagmires are what permeate throughout Promising Young Woman. The audience will need to cope with a sense of renegade justice or have spirited debates about what women do in a world that won’t believe their traumas. The screenplay by Fennell’s is also not an “all boys are bad” festival. There is a conscious effort to confront the women that hate other women, women that stick up for the awful behavior of men, or women that turn their own traumas against their own kind. The character of Madison (played perfectly by Allison Brie) arrives as an old friend to Cassie’s later in the game and her very presence changes the dynamics of Promising Young Woman.

What cannot be denied is that Promising Young Woman is a lit firecracker in a warehouse of gasoline. It has many of the aspects I so greatly appreciate in a movie. It’s saying something with the art, entertaining us with the performances- Mulligan is arguably Oscar worthy here- and will be a film to study down the line. Even the ending of Promising Young Woman will spark a debate. I wasn’t blown away by it, but it’s grown on me with every passing day. The bottom line is that Promising Young Woman lives up to its potential.



Written by: Leo Brady

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