Promising Young Woman

Promising Young Woman ★★★½

CW: Discussions of sexual assault

Bit of a disappointment considering all of the hype, which may be why it is a disappointment. Many awards season pundits have compared the film to "Get Out" in its Oscar chances and type of film. "Promising Young Woman" is taking fairly old tropes and combining them with a hot topic. To be fair, I think "Get Out" and "Promising Young Woman" are more complex than that. However, after spending a few weeks thinking about the film, I have come to the conclusion that "Promising Young Woman" reminds me a lot of a female-directed/female-centered take on "Death Wish"/Charles Bronson films/similar films.

In "Death Wish", Bronson purposefully puts himself in situations so he gets mugged and then kills the mugger. Carey Mulligan does the same thing with date rape in this film. And I am not really sure how to feel about it. Actually, there was a certain point where I thought Mulligan's character was going to end up becoming a villain. That the film would be a portrait about how trauma can create trauma, as in "Joker".

Mild spoilers, it does not go in that direction. However, Mulligan is kind of an awful person in this movie. In fact, every single character except Laverne Cox's coffee shop owner is awful. This made the entire film quite difficult to get through. The ending just made me feel really bad, in an unsatisfying way. I understand that this is how it often goes but I am not really sure how to feel about the lack of redeeming value in the ending. It is very much a "fuck you" ending. Part of this unsatisfaction comes from the fact that female trauma is not only the subject of the film but also really front & center even in the revenge part. Mulligan uses female trauma as a weapon here and I kind of feel like it goes against the point of the movie. First off, spoilers here. Skip to the paragraph after the next.

SPOILERS START If I remember correctly, the film ends with the suffering of a woman as the focus over the suffering of the antagonist getting justice. I understand that this movie is about female trauma but it almost seems revel in it or even say it is okay but only in the right circumstances. I am specifically talking about two parts of the film. First off, Mulligan kidnaps the daughter of the university president (or dean??) and then tells the university president (or dean??) that her daughter may currently be the victim of a gang rape. Second off, Mulligan arranges it so Alison Brie's character thinks she may have been raped after Mulligan pays a man to take a drunk Alison Brie to her hotel room. Technically, no rape actually happens (I think) but I am confused as to why Mulligan would trust some random dude to transport a woman for money. Like, how does Mulligan even know that Brie was not raped? These parts made it really hard to me to root for the character and that is why I compare to Bronson because he has played a lot of unlikable characters who do brutal things in the name of "justice". And I think Mulligan's character is not far off from Bronson's death penalty is the only solution to crime approach. I sort of wish the film had a little more nuance. All of the female characters are suffering and all of the male characters are monsters. I am not really sure if that is productive for this topic. To be fair, the movie is written and directed by a woman. I am not a woman. However, I cannot deny that certain things did not sit well with me. SPOILERS END

Anyway, I do not think the movie is bad or even "problematic". I just question why the writer and director made certain decisions that did hurt the movie for me. Beyond the story, "Promising Young Woman" is fine. It looks good and the actors are all good. Mulligan's performance is not my favorite of the year (that goes to McDormand) or even in my Top Five but she is great. I have been a fan of hers ever since that classic episode of "Doctor Who".

70/100. Watched at AMC South Hills Village 10 (5pm).

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