This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Jillian Law’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
If I may, please let me set the scene for you. After the Golden Globes, I decided I must see Promising Young Woman on a big screen. I went to my local $5 movie theater (what up, Farmington Civic?) with a mask. It was only me and an 80 year old gentleman rows and rows in front of me so we were very safe.
At least once a year, a movie takes hold of my heart and mind. This year, it's Promising Young Woman. I've thought about it every day since I've seen it. Based on its subject matter and aesthetics, I understand why it won't work for everyone, but I loved it. I really did. I loved it even when it hurt me and even when it pissed me off.
Promising Young Woman has been put in the category of rape revenge movies, and that category sort of fits and sort of doesn't. Cassie doesn't kill anyone, and she doesn't really physically hurt anyone (mostly). Instead, she just shames with, which makes this both the most effective and unnerving rape revenge movie (if it even is one). The reason I push back against that label is that this movie is not about Cassie enacting revenge for her own trauma. Instead, she wants to shame the people who stood by or enabled her best friend Nina's rapist, who's still alive and thriving while Nina is now dead.
At its core, Promising Young Woman is about grief. Years later, Cassie still feels the grief and loss of Nina just like it happened yesterday, and she can't and won't move on like everyone wants you to. Because how do you even do that? How do you grief and let go of your best friend, your friend since you were four? How are you supposed to live with that lost and that pain? As someone with those kind of lifelong best friends, I completely understood Cassie and her motivations. If I were to lose my Ninas, it would fuck me up forever. That's just what happens when you bury the girl who's next to you in all your photos.
Perhaps this is what some reviewers are missing, and maybe that's why the ending of the movie is so controversial. And I get it. As an audience member, I almost stood up and left after Nina's rapist murdered Cassie. I thought, "Oh, fuck this movie." But, being the experienced movie-goer I am, I realized there was more runtime and decided to see what would happen next. And boy was it satisfying! I really thought when the guy from New Girl helped the rapist burn Cassie's body and Ryan lied to the cops, I thought they were just going to get away with it. But of course, our girl Cassie planned for this. She made sure all the terrible men got their just desserts. And the film ends perfectly with a text that says "Love, Cassie and Nina" because ultimately, that's what Cassie wanted: to be with Nina again.
There's so much more I could say about this movie (and maybe I will later), but I just want to make sure I mention how insanely good all the performances are and how well cast this movie is. Emerald Fennell (our director, our screenwriter, our queen) smartly cast the most likeable of sitcom guys into scumbag roles, making the point that even nice guys perpetuate and participate in rape culture. Carey Mulligan delivers her best performance since her role in An Education, for which she was nominated for Best Actress. I hope to say that nominated repeated for Promising Young Woman this year. It's an absolutely amazing, fresh performance from Mulligan, who is always good but never given enough to do in period dramas. And all the supporting players are excellent: Cassie's parents, the med school dean who let Nina's rapist off with no consequences played by Connie Britton, the lawyer who got the rapist and others like him off and now regrets it played by Alfred Molina... Also, the film's visually stunning, and the soundtrack's great.
So yeah, I am obsessed with Promising Young Woman. Do I think the Oscars will go for it? *shrugs* Other awards shows have, but Oscar is a tricky beast so who knows? I hope they do! You should definitely watch it. (Do be aware there are so many content warnings here! Take care of yourself.)