Sommerleigh Pollonais, Senior Writer
Plot: A young woman, traumatised by a tragic event in her past, seeks out vengeance against those who cross her path.
Review: Have you ever seen a movie that grew on you? Like the more you sat with it and thought about it, the more you fell in love with it? Well that’s how I feel about this wonderfully dark yet poignant tale of trauma and the effects it can have on you.
Promising Young Woman, the feature film debut of writer/director Emerald Fennell, opens with an attractive woman at a bar. She seems intoxicated and is barely able to stand on her own two feet when she catches the attention of three men, two of which instantly comment on her “hotness”. One of the men, a “good guy” if you will, goes over to her, concerned for her well-being, and makes it his duty to see her home safely. But he ultimately decides it wouldn’t be so bad if they go back to his place first. You can see where this is going, right? Or at least you’ll think you know where it’s going because I promise you, Fennell does a wonderful job of keeping you on your toes.
Unpredictable is the name of the game as this film is deliberately very ambiguous, both in its tone and its narrative. There’s this comedic tone throughout, yet you always have a sense of something uneasy hanging around in the background. The narrative unfolds in a way that feels both natural and intelligent, giving you just enough to nibble on but never quite enough to figure out the endgame. And I loved every moment of it! I also appreciated seeing a movie that touched on the hypocrisy and double standards that exists when it comes to men of a certain pedigree and the behaviour they tend to get away with in society. It’s not heavy-handed and subtle enough that it may actually be overlooked by the casual viewer, but it’s there and it was really satisfying to see these so-called “good guys” get there just desserts.
Carey Mulligan is a gifted actress — her work in films like An Education, Shame and Drive (just to name a few) speaks for itself — but her performance here was head and shoulders above the rest, and for me, THIS is the role I know I’ll remember her most for. Witty, razor-sharp smarts and just the right edge of madness and vulnerability, Mulligan’s Cassandra is the kind of character you just love rooting for. She’s the kind of person who always seems to be two steps ahead of everyone else. Her chemistry with Bo Burnham (Eight Grade/The Big Sick) is so damn good and so well-directed (seriously, I still can’t believe this is Fennel’s debut!) that you’ll find yourself smiling every time they have a scene together. It also makes the emotional impact of what unfolds later all the more effective.
The conclusion of this movie left me so dazed I had to really sit back and digest it. I couldn’t decide whether I loved or hated it at the time, but the more I thought about it and the more I thought about the effects of real-life trauma, and how inevitably there is truly no conclusive “happy ending” for those who’ve been true circumstances such as these, the more I loved it. And in the end, I decided, it was the most satisfying of outcomes.
I won’t dive any deeper because I really think you guys should give this one a look, but I’ll add this: the music is perfect (LOVED the creepy version of Britney Spears’ “Toxic” in the final act), the acting and chemistry by our leads are A++, and, even with the strange tonal choices here and a bit of time padding in the middle stages of the movie, Promising Young Woman is a fantastic film debut (I’ll be looking out for more from this talented writer/director) and a wickedly good way to spend your viewing time.
Sommer’s Score: 7.5 out of 10
For more of my thoughts of Promising Young Woman you can check out my video review here:
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apocalypse comes.
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