Promising Young Woman

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Promising Young Woman is a film that seizes the zeitgeist. That means the actions of the lead have an underlying social-political subtext that transcends the genre. Its brand of female empowerment incorporates the spirit of the “Me Too” movement. It is a bold and slightly polemical statement on our current times. Now before you dismiss this film as “not for you,” let me be clear. Those ideas may bubble underneath our protagonist’s behavior, but they’re not explicitly stated. The narrative’s first focus is to simply entertain. I submit this release as the latest addition to the feminist canon. I’m talking about a wide range of cinematic classics that include His Girl Friday, Alien, 9 to 5, Thelma & Louise, and Erin Brockovich.

Cassie Thomas (Carey Mulligan) once had a bright and hopeful future. She was attending medical school but dropped out under mysterious circumstances. She now lives with her parents (Jennifer Coolidge and Clancy Brown) and works in a coffee shop with friend Gail (Laverne Cox). Every weekend she goes to bars and pretends to be severely intoxicated. Inevitably some man (with less than honorable intentions) will take her home and try to take advantage of her. Before things get out of hand, she becomes alert and lowers the boom. Why does she do this? That is an enigma delightfully explained by the movie.

This is in essence a revenge fable. Written and directed by Emerald Fennell, she is an actress, having appeared in supporting parts in many critically acclaimed films (Albert Nobbs, Anna Karenina, The Danish Girl). She was also Camilla Parker-Bowles on the Netflix show “The Crown.” Perhaps her most impressive resume highlight is as the showrunner for the 2nd season of the BBC America TV series Killing Eve. She’s already shown her genius before. However, this is a surprisingly self-assured debut with a well-defined perspective. If you were sleeping on Emerald’s talent before, then this feature most assuredly heralds the arrival of a “promising” new director. She exploits a distressing truth that is part of the cultural conversation then articulates it as a piece of compelling entertainment. The saga is like medicine that tastes like peppermint candy. It’s delicious but it’s also good for you.

Cassie Thomas is a likable woman that has rationalized her vicious takedown of “nice guys” acting with ill intent. She may outwardly look like a cutie pie but an inferno rages beneath her pretty exterior. She embodies an assertive woman fully in charge of her capabilities. All the while she radiates a femininity that belies the humanity at the heart of her character. She is vulnerable. Deep down she would still like to meet a genuinely sweet guy. Cue Ryan Cooper portrayed by Bo Burnham at his most bumbling and genteel. Her reunion with this former med-school classmate sets the chronicle off in another direction . He also has a sense of humor that is as sarcastic as hers. It appears this tale of vengeance has suddenly shifted gears with his introduction as a redemptive character.

Carey Mulligan is excellent in every role she plays but she tops herself here. She has received a Best Actress nomination at the Oscars once before. It happened for An Education back in 2010 (Sandra Bullock won that year for The Blind Side). Mulligan has been doing consistent work ever since. Mudbound and Wildlife were recently popular with critics. If there is any justice, Carey will be nominated again. Incidentally, Emerald Fennell should be cited for her trenchant screenplay as well. A lot of things happen in this story. I haven’t even explained how a former school friend (Alison Brie), a med-school dean (Connie Britton), and a repentant lawyer (Alfred Molina) from her past all play an important part in her present plans. I’ve barely scratched the surface. Yet I’ve said enough. The dramatic twists and turns is a pleasure I will not spoil. An ideal review should never reveal too many plot details. It should merely stoke your desire to see it. Now go see it.

12-05-20

8 Responses to “Promising Young Woman”

  1. This was quite good. I agree, Carey is quite good. She really sold the character. It was a fun ride. 4 ⭐️

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  2. Solid review of a really solid film. I scored it the same. Definitely a good way to wrap up 2020.

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  3. I saw the trailer for this one in theatres back at the beginning of the year and knew I’ll just HAVE to watch this. I hope I get a chance to see A Promising Young Woman soon.
    Great post!

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  4. My favorite film of 2020.

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