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Films Review

Promising Young Woman

Delightfully dark and subversive – a can’t miss film.

Promising Young Woman score 94/100

Score : 94/100

Watchable Minutes: 113/113

Trailer Comparison : I really like the trailer for Promising Young Woman. It put me in the frame of mind to see a gory revenge flick. I thought that’s what I was in for and what I wanted to see, but after watching this film, I’m glad that it went a different direction. 

Movie or Film : Promising Young Woman is a dark and crucial look at what it means to be a woman in the 21st century as well as a statement about the futility of revenge. There are no pulled punches and I think the harsh nature and brutal honesty make this a film. 

Info : 

  • Run time : 1 hr 53 minutes
  • Studio : Focus Features
  • Director : Emerald Fennell
  • Where to Watch : In Theaters, Prime Video ($)

Summary : 

Cassie is a young woman working at a coffee shop after dropping out from medical school. She lives at home and her family is worried for her future. Little does her family know, she has an active and sadistic night life – where she entraps men seeking to take advantage of her while claiming to be “nice guys”. After learning that a man from her past is back in town, Cassie decides to take her pastime to the source of her anguish. 

Review : 

The subject matter of Promising Young Woman is heavy – viewer beware. Revenge stories often make for good movies, if done correctly with proper motives. What separates Promising Young Woman from a regular revenge flick is that Cassie is allowed to go through with her desires while continuously subverting expectations. This film would be difficult to score without talking about spoilers so keep that in mind as you read on. 

Cassie’s nightly activities lead one to believe she gets violent with her targets, judging by her furious and meticulous record keeping after each encounter. Subversion number one is that Cassie breaks the charade and becomes insta-sober to talk with her nice guys. You expect her to turn into a knife wielding psycho but she doesn’t. She dismantles every pathetic argument these creeps put together with ease and manages to both shame and embarrass them. The second subversion is when the film makes the audience think that Cassie finally finds a real nice guy in Ryan, only for it to be revealed that he was present and very much a part of the incident with her friend, Nina, that spurred Cassie’s vendettas. The final subversion is when the audience is lead to believe that Cassie will get her catharsis and live to tell the tale. Disappointingly, Cassie is brutally murdered by the same man who harmed Nina, leaving the audience feeling unsatisfied. However, Cassie thought ahead. She set up a dead man switch in the form of an ex-attorney named Jordan, which is activated upon her disappearance. The dead man switch sets off a chain reaction of events that ultimately takes down the entire group of guys involved in Nina’s incident. Cassie gets her revenge but it costs her her life,  in much the same way that Nina’s incident cost her hers. 

The acting in this film was phenomenal. It was very much a tactical move to cast well known funny guys in the roles of the “nice guys”. Max Greenfield from New Girl, Christopher Mintz-Plasse from Superbad, and Bo Burnham, a well known comedian, are all perfect examples of the usual nice guys you see in popular media. I thought that Carey Mulligan, who played Cassie, did a great job at being overly self-righteous and obsessed with her revenge. She couldn’t let what happened to Nina go and move on. Mulligan also had great chemistry with Bo Burnham, who played her short term boyfriend, Ryan. Burnham was funny and charming up until the moment he was threatened by Cassie, when his nice guy persona evaporated in an instant and he revealed his true colors. 

As for the visuals, the film featured a rarely used pastel color palette that popped in the drab city where the film took place. The up close and personal camera angles were great choices and matched the tone precisely. One thing I didn’t like was the odd set design for Cassie’s parents house. It felt way too tacky for no good reason. I don’t know why it was made to be so weird, but it felt out of place and jarring. The scoring and sound design was just as good as the visuals and meshed together nicely. I found it to be creepy and unsettling at all the right moments. As for the direction, it was solid as well, especially for a debut film. I think that Emerald Fennell has a strong future in Hollywood because not only did she direct, she also wrote the entire script. I love a good directorial debut, and Promising Young Woman was just that. I can speak for her success in creating a provocative statement film when I admit that I don’t think I’ll ever watch it again because it was that uncomfortable.

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