“Who needs brains? They never did a girl any good.”
There are movies you watch for entertainment. There are movies you watch for the sake of art. Then there are movies like Promising Young Woman. In a controversial time, with the aftermath of #MeToo, and the flood of women demanding the men be brought to justice, this revenge thriller brings the movement to the world of cinema.
Promising Young Woman focuses on the life of 30 year old Cassandra (Carey Mulligan), or Cassie for short. Her childhood dream was to become a doctor, but when the actions of fellow students force her and her best friend, Nina, to leave medical school, the scars of such events are dug into Cassie’s heart. As time passes, Cassie begins to take justice into her own hands and lures “nice guys” or “gentlemen” to her by faking to be blackout drunk — revealing that these “nice guys” don’t truly have the best intentions.
I could first dive deep into any of the brilliant elements of Promising Young Woman, but I must admit that Carey Mulligan is an absolute star! She has said in various interviews that it is her goal to challenge herself with each role she takes. However, Promising Young Woman, in relation to her other roles, is completely different. This is Mulligan at her edgiest — her most vulnerable. She plays Cassie to perfection, mixing in vast amount of emotion with a pure stoic demeanor. My love for Mulligan grew after seeing her play Kathy in Never Let Me Go, and Sissy in Shame. But this is, by far, Mulligan at her best. She is in a small category of actresses, who play so many roles, but never finds herself in a rut. The rest of the cast are bit players to fill out Cassie’s story. Alison Brie and Bo Burnham are important pieces to the story, and even Burnham gives a rather serious performances, unlike his usual comedy roles. But these two next to Mulligan, are overshadowed. She steals every scene she’s in.
As a fan of The Crown, I was aware of Emerald Fennell’s performance as Camilla Parker Bowles. But you’ll find her with only a cameo in Promising Young Woman. This time, Fennell is behind the camera, and wow, she just oozes talent as she writes and directs this modern thriller. If there’s one person, woman or man, whose future in film I couldn’t be more excited for, it would be Fennell. She has written several episodes of the hit BBC show, Killing Eve, but this is her moment in the big time, and boy does she explode.
Promising Young Woman is not your average thriller. This film tugs at a special part of my heart with references to one of my favorite classic movies: The Night of the Hunter. But that’s just an added bonus to what’s happening on screen. The “cherry on top,” if you will. I’m going to keep this review short and sweet, because this movie is best seen with very little known about it. I’ll be diving deep into the ending with a spoiler review coming soon. I have been looking forward to seeing Promising Young Woman since April, and the delay seemed to only build my anticipation. So I say to you now, after waiting months, Promising Young Woman is one of the best films of 2020.
Promising Young Woman
Written & Directed by: Emerald Fennell
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, Clancy Brown, Laverne Cox, and Jennifer Coolidge