HOLLYWOOD—In my personal opinion there have not been a ton of great movies in the year 2020. When I say ‘great,’ I’m referring to a film that delivers a gut punch or hooks the viewer to a point that you are gripped to what you are witnessing and you don’t let up until the credit begin to roll. I thought “Let Him Go” was a stellar drama, and we can now add another flick to that list, “Promising Young Woman.”
This movie is hard to characterize, but it’s dramatic in my personal opinion with a very dark comic edge, one that is haunting, unnerving and will leave the spectator unsettled long after exiting the theater on the couch (whichever you choose as your viewing form).
At the center of this narrative is Cassie Thomas portrayed with ferocity and confidence by Carey Mulligan. Hands down this is one of Mulligan’s best performances of her career and if she is overlooked by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for a Best Actress nomination it will be an absolute travesty to say the least. This is what you call acting at its best and Mulligan delivers a multi-layered performance that will INDEED be talked about for years to come.
Cassie experienced a traumatic experience with one of her pals while in medical school. The experience was so haunting it caused her to drop out of med school. As a result, she has made it her mission to be the voice for woman who cannot speak for themselves by unsuspecting man who think its okay to take advantage of women who cannot provide consent. Yes, “Promising Young Woman” tackles an extremely sensitive subject matter: rape and consent. As a man, it forces you to question every single interaction you have EVER had with a person of the opposite sex. In addition, it raises that question about those sitting on the sideline and being silent instead of taking action and doing what is right.
I hate to say it, but it made me feel ashamed to be a spawn of the male species. Yes, this is only a movie, but the problem with any movie is that it’s a slice of reality. We know women are sexually assaulted all the time after being drugged or intoxicated to the point where they cannot provide consent. This movie tackles that subject matter in a slightly comic tone, which some would argue it’s not funny, which it is not, but it does it in a way that makes the audience have the opportunity to get thru such an eye-opening movie.
The writing and direction by Emerald Fennell is fantastic and is absolutely stunning. As a first-time director, Fennell has knocked this movie out of the park people and she should be highly praised for her work. Enough about the technical praises of the movie, let’s talk about the narrative, where Cassie seeks vengeance by acting as if she is overly drunk and allows a man to take her home, and just when he thinks he is about to get away with taking advantage of her, she confronts him in an awkward yet eye-opening moment as she places his name in her book.
“Promising Young Woman” is like a revenge tale, but it is done in a way that is artistically clever and haunting. It is NOT just the man who have to pay the price, but women who don’t align, and do right by the victim and that was something I absolutely appreciated by the filmmakers. Supporting roles by Alison Brie, Laverne Cox, Jennifer Coolidge, Molly Shannon and Connie Britton should be praised. The same applies on the male side with wicked, but disturbing turns by Chris Lowell, Bo Burnham, Adam Brody, Max Greenfield and Alfred Molina.
This is not a movie I can watch over and over again, but upon first watch, this movie strikes such a piercing into the whole that it haunts and I mean haunts for days, weeks, months, year’s after you have watched it. This is a tale about decency, truth, lies, deception, consent and sexual assault that we tend to ignore. “Promising Young Woman” places such a spotlight on the issue that you cannot ignore it, you’re forced to talk about it and that is the purpose of any fantastic movie: people talk about it.