Director; Emerald Fennell. Starring; Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Alison Brie. Rated R. Color. 113 minutes.
Carey Mulligan is a great actress. But perhaps the better performer here is the character she plays in “Promising Young Woman”. Get ready for a visceral experience that is not simply about sexism. It is about getting revenge against the privileged by showing how disgusting they can be. This is a ticking time bomb, one you will never know when or how it is going to explode.
Cassie has a favorite pastime that is not exactly prototypical. She goes to nightclubs and acts mentally out of it until some sleazy guy takes her home. Stumbling down stairs with wannabe predators takes guts and could be dangerous. Not for her but for the guys in this situation. Cassie always knows how to wait for the right time when the ‘nice guy’ thinks it’s time to slip off the panties when she springs to life and yells “HEY, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!”
Whatever happens to them off screen, each victim gets marked down in her book every week. Why does she do this? We’ll get to that. During the day, Cassie works at a small time coffee shop, rude as ever to most customers. A former med student, she still lives at home with her parents Stanley (Clancy Brown) and Susan (Jennifer Coolidge). They are loving individuals, but do like to drop hints that their daughter needs to move on in her life.
The weekly trappings continue as the truth about why she has declared war on men unfolds. Something awful happened to her friend Nina. Something un-explainably terrible. But we don’t yet know what that is. Keeping up a thick wall against men makes intimacy very difficult until she meets Ryan (Bo Burnham). Ryan went to med school with Cassie and is surprised to see her at the coffee shop. With some persistence Ryan is able to convince Cassie to go out for dinner. The relationship is rocky at first, particularly when he sees Cassie doing her nightclub screwing over a dude thing. After some begging, Ryan takes her back and it seems as though the scarred woman has finally found happiness. Then a bombshell happens and the final act is nothing like you would think. It is pretty genius.
“Promising Young Woman” hits you in the face from many different perspectives. Obviously this is a reminder that #metoo continues to exist and cannot be forgotten or overlooked. But mainly it is about a broken person trying to mend a wound that will haunt you forever. Carey Mulligan is exceptional in what is clearly an Oscar caliber performance. She is not the typical vengeful character you would think of such as say a “Fatal Attraction”. This is a confident form of pain that is hard to pull off.
Director Emerald Fennell is not afraid of the taboo. “Promising Young Woman” has several cringeworthy moments that will have you tense up as this film is not afraid to make you feel uncomfortable. That’s the point. When Carey Mulligan’s character is told that being accused as a man is their worst nightmare she promptly responds “DO YOU KNOW WHAT EVERY WOMAN’S WORST NIGHTMARE IS?” Couldn’t have said it better myself.