Promising Young Woman

Promising Young Woman

This film must be extremely encouraging if you want to be a director. Just record conversations from 3-4 different positions (relocate the tripod anywhere, don't even change the height), use basic lighting and blocking so we can mostly see the actors (doesn’t matter if ¾ of the screen is wasted), hire a free work experience kid to do the sets, and have dialogue that is packed with on-trend Twitter platitudes instead of human nature.

Bam, instant movie. Suddenly you’ll be nominated for best picture, director and screenplay by the Oscars with your first ever low-budget flick.

Of course it might help if you're an upper-class white British woman in her mid-30s (writer/director Emerald Fennell) and best buddies with aristocratic Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Fleabag). And have another upper-class white British woman in her mid-30s (Carey Mulligan) for lead actress, and if you have an upper-class white Australian heiress in her early 30s as producer (Margot Robbie).

Then you can all pretend to care about working class psychologically damaged Americans by making a movie about them, and you'll get a standing ovation from Hollywood types who wouldn't know reality if their maid hit them on the head with it.

Every scene is so elementary in this film it makes you wonder why the human race ever got excited about cinema. We’re below Netflix standards here. It made me want to watch student art films as at least they're trying. The coffee shop scenes are like watching royalty guess how peasants function. It's the most fake workplace I've seen in a film for ages, like watching over-educated boarding school girls on a gap year. And of course it’s run by a sassy black trans person who has no function except to play "mammy" to the privileged white heroine. Every character behaves like a body snatcher, just standing on the spot spouting soundbites as if they spend their whole life listening to woke podcasts.

There was a romance/falling in love montage later which was so cheesy (with corny music) that I was certain it had to be a satirical dream sequence. In fact the whole film feels like the dream of an unreliable narrator. I kept thinking that there will be a cut and the protagonist will wake up, perhaps in a mental institution.

But it isn't a dream, it's utterly inept filmmaking that makes everything feel like a dream. The performances make it even worse. I used to complain that Jack Nicholson played the same character in every film: himself. Well that's a thousand times better than casting posh actors to put on a fake accent, change their hair, and play someone far below their social standing so they can win an award. All that does is create a horribly inauthentic clash and distracts, not to mention how condescending it is (I've never seen it work in the opposite direction).

This awful plot could only have come from pampered towers. Imagine you're a low paid worker and your best friend was sexually assaulted, then committed suicide when you were students. The perpetrator got away. What would you do? How would you handle that painful situation?

The correct Oscar approved answer would be that you’d go to nightclubs every night, pretending to be drunk and flirtatious, then wait for the moment when a predatory man will inevitably offer to take you back to his place so he can rape you. But before he does so you'll sit up and go: "Ha! I'm not really drunk and you're a bad person" and then you’ll skip merrily back home to hang out with your popular stand-up comedian Bo Burnham who thinks you're the best.

The only other activities you'll get up to here are moaning at your parents who must’ve paid for you to go to medical school (you're 30 and living with them). Your folks seem to be super-glued to the same chairs throughout the entire movie, and just don't care enough about your mental health.

Later you'll take revenge on the people who could've done more to help your suicidal friend by making them think they were raped too, or by temporarily kidnapping one of their children because that's what damaged, poor women do? At the end you'll put on a badass sexy nurse outfit so it can go in the trailer, because young people like Harley Quinn, and because if a character doesn’t end up as a brain-dead victim, there's no Sundance prize for you.

It's insane. It isn't a grindhouse flick. It's a cheap, made for (streaming) TV drama. It takes itself seriously.

Whatever # “raising awareness” message it wanted is also erased by a tacked on "this was all part of my cunning plan!" epilogue that director Fennell didn't actually want to write but one of her 10 (!) producers told her to do so and she obeyed. This movie clearly cares about its subject matter.

And if it didn’t look ugly enough, someone decided to apply a forced millennial filter over the whole thing so that, for example, the title pops up and has copyright info underneath it like them old B-movies, it uses "be fierce" fonts and ironically has the Spice Girls on the soundtrack, and it's broken into chapters so you can watch it on your phone.

This film is everything wrong with movies, let alone critically acclaimed ones. I'm sure this director is going to be most famous for being one of two women nominated for Best Picture for the first time, but why should she care about being a pawn? She’s already signed up to do an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical of all things and to make a DC movie. Why doesn’t every coffee shop employee just quit their crummy job and make TV movies? It's easy.

Promising Young Woman is a cynical product riding that Joker money train (now he's a woman!), it's created by insular artists detached from ordinary people (yet still willing to imitate them), it's completely and self-destructively disinterested in cinematic storytelling, the artistry comes from a marketing company, it was made in an obvious rush over 23 days, acted as if it was all a rehearsal, ruins good side-actors (like the mother), is cravenly desperate for awards and willing to hitch a ride on real painful issues to get them at any cost.

And worst of all it wants a halo for doing so.

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