Movie Review: Promising Young Woman
by Julie Perez
This movie will infuriate you.
Promising Young Woman is a fascinating tale of revenge. We meet Cassandra Thomas (Carey Mulligan) in the middle of a bar. She’s clearly too drunk to stand and at the mercy of a few questionable men. We soon find out that this is Cassie’s semi-regular ritual; she allows a man to take her back to his place, where he will undoubtedly attempt to take advantage of her, which is when said man will learn a lesson he won’t soon forget.
Cassie’s ritual was born from a tragedy that happened to her college best friend. Her need for revenge has halted the rest of her life and even when her parents (Jennifer Coolidge and Clancy Brown) are throwing hints that they want her to move on, she finds herself too-wrapped up amidst her rage and need for vengeance. That is, until she meets a handsome pediatric surgeon, Ryan (Bo Burnham), who she used to go to medical school with before she dropped out. Ryan offers a bit of distraction for a while, but soon her new relationship with him unearths the trauma that changed her life.
Writer-Director Emerald Fennell tells a necessary story. Each frame is carefully thought-out, with each song expertly-placed in every scene and it all comes together in a magnetic film. I will say that one of my favorite parts about this film was the way that it utilized music to drive the narrative. Each song was perfectly-placed and that cover of Britney Spears’s “Toxic” is haunting.
Promising Young Woman will crawl under your skin and shake you to your core. Over and over again does this movie show you the overt and subtle ways that men will tear women down and you’ll find yourself infuriated by watching it all unravel. Fennell gives us effortless and layered storytelling; though the film is centered around sexual assault and all of the necessary lessons that come with that, it’s also a story of grief and the countless chaotic ways one may try to find peace.
Carey Mulligan is eccentric in every single scene. She plays Cassandra and her complicated ways, in a manner that will have you quickly justifying her actions. She weaves comedy into tense situations in a way that forces the scene to feel more genuine, while holding her own in every dramatic scene throughout the film. Mulligan’s performance feels heavy and will stay with you long after the film is over, and for that she should be absolutely celebrated. To add, her chemistry with Bo Burnham and their hilarious banter provide a much-needed moment of levity in the middle of the story.
There isn’t much to say about the plot, for fear of ruining key moments but believe me when I tell you that this movie deserves to be watched. Personally, I loved the fact that even when the story is unraveling in chaotic ways, Cassandra still has control of the narrative until the bitter end. Which just emphasizes the point the film makes throughout: believe women, always and especially when it feels unbelievable to do so. Often society will rush to question a woman because the reality of our world constantly feels terrifying and this movie gives the many reasons to stop questioning them.
The end of this film will have audiences divided and whether you love it or despise it, there is no denying that Promising Young Woman is an extraordinary story that needed to be told.
PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN was released in theaters on December25th, 2020.