It’s rare for me to be so caught off guard by a movie nowadays, making Promising Young Woman one of the more memorable movie experiences since Parasite.
Sometimes you just watch a movie and you sit back and kind of just stare at the screen for a few moments, trying to take in everything you just watched. It happens every so often, maybe every few years. It just happened with Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman. I don’t say this lightly, but it could be a masterpiece.
This film packs a serious punch and right away it gets pretty dark and uncomfortable, but the movies message and themes are suppose to do just that. Trauma is nothing to shake a stick at. Certain things and moments in our lives can latch themselves on to us like a symbiote and no matter how hard we try, we can’t out run our past. For Cassandra (Carey Mulligan) that’s exactly what’s going on in her life. Traumatized by something so awful and rotten to its core, it has shaped her life in ways that her friends and family just can’t comprehend. Secluded and working “nights” Cassandra a former Medical School student, is now working at a coffee shop and trying to rid the world of a few bad apples.
I really don’t want to go into many specifics with the film, because it certainly serves better not knowing anything about it. Those plot points and specifics isn’t what made this film so special in my eyes. This screams “movie-making” for a first time director Emerald Fennell, she brings it all. From the flawless soundtrack, to every single outfit that Carey Mulligan wears throughout the entire film (seriously), it’s the little details that add up. With an incredible script, that has your skin crawling in some scenes. At the end of the day, we all know there is evil in the world. On multiple occasions, the girl we are rooting for, can seem so unhinged in a mere moment, and change her entire demeanour and body language, that it made my jaw drop. Carey Mulligan cannot be praised enough for this tour-de-force of a performance that should have her walking away with gold come Oscar season. More on her in a bit, because every single person that has a speaking line in this movie, brings it. It’s like the director milked every ounce of good acting out of every single person that stepped foot on her set. From Alison Brie, Adam Brody to Clancy Brown, who gives such a warm Dad performance, considering all you really remember him being is an asshole in most of his movies.
When bad things happen to good people it can leave you scarred for life. Especially when those bad things only have consequences on those good people involved. Watching the systems put in place fail all around you, you start to ponder a lot about life and what it truly means. Carey Mulligan is doing so much in this movie, from cute girl-next-door vibes, to the black out drunk mess, to finally her doing her best Kathy Bates impersonation from Misery. Toss in the dozens of different looks her character has, I was blown away by it and it’s a performance I honestly might never forget. Trying to digest everything is difficult because this is a complicated matter, and seeing her act her way throughout this thing was a beautiful, yet sick and twisted rollercoaster ride. Even Bo Burnham comes in and really uses Mulligan’s energy to his full advantage and shines in almost every scene that he’s in. They had terrific chemistry and seeing their complicated and odd relationship blossom was great look at how quickly relationships can rise and fall.
I can see this movie flying under the radar and when it comes on Netflix or any other streaming service it will blow up. One of the better films I’ve seen in recent memory and one that should contend for some Oscars.
Promising Young Woman will make you laugh, cry, scream, and leave you feeling kind of dirty. Moral of the story, men are pigs
I will say this. The subject at hand is a difficult topic to discuss. However Emerald Fennell is able to talk about accountability in people, how the dangers of disassociation can affect not only victims and survivors, but those around them. How most of the time the perpetrator is the one who walks away guilt free and in these times who actually deserves forgiveness. The film does such a fantastic job at capturing all of this, while showcasing how hard it is to be a woman and certainly how hard it must be dealing with actual life altering events when everyone just wants to say “boy will be boys” or “we were just kids.”