Friday, January 15, 2021

A Glass of Wine at the Movies - Promising Young Woman

Promising Young Woman

Rating: R (USA)/ 14A (Canada)

Director: Emerald Fennell

Language: English

Length:  113 minutes

Cast: Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Laverne Cox

Viewing Method: Advance Screening

Release Date: December 25, 2020 (cinemas)/ January 15, 2021 (streaming)

Synopsis: Nothing in Cassie's life is what it appears to be -- she's wickedly smart, tantalizingly cunning, and she's living a secret double life by night. Now, an unexpected encounter is about to give Cassie a chance to right the wrongs from the past.


Promising Young Woman is a lollipop wrapped in barbed wire. It's a tale of revenge backdropped against a bubblegum pink veneer. It's the story of a woman hell bent on payback regardless of anything else. I expect a majority will feel rage after finishing this movie and with good reason.

Cassie was once a promising young woman with a whole future ahead of her. So was her friend Nina. One night changed all of that and now Cassie spends her time trying to right the wrongs that have occurred. It a fresh, exciting take on a story we've heard before and this one has teeth.

Emerald Fennell has written and directed a gut punch of a movie. A fact that is made all the more impressive when you consider it is her directorial debut. It's smart, sharp, and demands to be heard.

Carey Mulligan is breathtaking in this. Her performance should definitely be part of Oscar talks this year. Not since my beloved Amy Elliott Dunne has a female character captured my interest with all her fury and rage. They are very different characters but there is something similar that beats at the center of both of them. Carey plays this with just the right amount of unrestrained anger and exhaustion. Grief is crushing and Carey nails it beautifully. She's literally (and figuratively) a nightmare dressed as most men's daydream.

The idea of the 'nice guy' is tackled with the movie showcasing that plenty of these men are not as nice as they claim they are. Their toxic entitlement is displayed in all its ugly honesty. All the men in this are the absolute worst. Phrases like 'I'm a nice guy' are uttered in one breathe while their actions show that they are anything but. They claim to be gentleman even as the movie showcases that these 'gentleman' can often be the worst of them all. It especially highlights that silence is complicity and that their lack of action makes them just as culpable regardless of what they protest. The fact that these guys are played by the likes of Adam Brody, Chris Lowell, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who are guys known for playing nice guy characters, only serves to add another layer to this element.

As for women this movie doesn't pretend they are innocent in victimizing their fellow women. It is sure to remind us that they can play into victim blame culture too. Familiar phrases we hear are ones about how a woman shouldn't have worn that skirt, or gotten so drunk and they are usually coming out of the mouth of another woman. It's a stark reminder that society thinks she got what was coming to her because of her choices. It gives a free pass to the guy because, after all, the woman should have been smarter.

I feel like this cannot be reviewed fully without talking about the ending because I think the ending really showcases the entire point behind the movie. I am going to put it in spoiler tags so that anyone who doesn't want to read it can skip it. 

We hear the phrase 'promising young man' tossed about when a privileged guy commits a sexual assault and people are hesitant to wreck his future because of all that potential he has. This movie screams a reminder of the promising young women on the other end of those crimes. What about her potential? What about her life and future? This movie is asking us to ask those questions while also offering a smartly written screenplay, and a beyond excellent soundtrack. 

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