Promising Young Woman

Promising Young Woman ★★★★★

Original Title: Promising Young Woman
Year of Release: 2020
Genres: Dark Comedy; Crime; Thriller; Drama
Director: Emerald Fennell
Writer: Emerald Fennell
Main Cast: Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Laverne Cox, Clancy Brown, Jennifer Coolidge, Alison Brie, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Molly Shannon, Connie Britton, Max Greenfield, Chris Lowell

Between the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020, I had my first real club experiences. You know, going to discos at 10pm with the boys, staying out dancing and drinking, and coming back home at 3 or 4am. It's not something I necessarily loved to do, but it is something that was fun mainly because of the company of my friends. One thing that I always disliked though was seeing guys acting like literal predators: standing on the side of the dance floor, scoping out potential victims, vulnerable girls to take advantage of. It was seriously disturbing, especially whenever I dropped off the high of the alcohol, which put me off even more from going to these places. What got to me even more was how clearly drunk some girls were, even the ones trying to hit on me or my friends. One time, a girl came up to me (or rather, crashed into me), pointed at my face, and slurred, "I like your glasses" before putting her head closer to mine. I respectfully put my arms out and looked around, until I saw her girl friends looking for her, and brought her back to them, no questions asked. Was the girl too drunk for her own good, likely putting herself in harms way? Yes. Is that a good excuse to take advantage of that in any way whatsoever? Fuck. NO! I never saw, and never will see the appeal of doing things like that, and it's the kind of disgusting male behavior that I am excessively self-conscious about, and hearing even my friends spout misogynistic nonsense really got on my nerves multiple times.

That really long paragraph and preface was to say that I absolutely LOVED Promising Young Woman right from the beginning, capturing the situation and feelings I felt to a tee! Going into this film, I was unsure whether to expect a dark comedy, a violent thriller, an exploitation flick, a serious drama a satire... not a clue! What this is, is one of the most important films of the year. The exploration of sexual abuse and women's role in society are nothing new, but it is very hard to achieve such a level of introspection and freshness, putting audiences into the shoes of our protagonist Cindy, and making her perspective incredibly clear and sympathetic. It's a film that should give women strength, and make men more understanding of what the other sex goes through every time they leave their house.

Emerald Fennell did an absolutely brilliant job taking the tropes, expectations, and conventions of the "rape & revenge" subgenre, and twisting them on their head: the sweetest revenge isn't violence or torture, but facing your own shitty behavior straight on. Every man is complicit in building an atmosphere of fear and unease for women, no one can truly save themselves, and the few that seem genuine and kind most likely have done something wrong in the past that is still haunting them. It is hard stuff, but oh so important, especially for me and other men and young people, to see and understand just how wrong our behavior can be, and how hard it can be to go out as a woman, always been stared at, people making lewd comments about your looks, trying to take advantage of you.

Carey Mulligan delivers one of her finest performances in this, playing a deeply complex character in a way that is mesmerizing to watch. Major kudos to Fennell for balancing a really hard line here, making for a film that is genuinely tense and dramatic at times, while also having lighter moments and a funny bone that keep it from getting too heavy or depressing to watch. This is also thanks to great performances from the rest of the cast, with Bo Burnham using his trademark charming awkwardness to great effect. It is also a really well put-together production, with effective cinematography and fantastic needle-drops in the soundtrack that had me cheering multiple times!

The character of Cassie is one of the most memorable ones of the year, embodying every woman that has been wronged, abused, and mistreated in their lives. There is immense catharsis to be found in her journey, which is something I strongly admired and respected. I was especially shocked by the ending, which goes in a direction that I was not expecting, but it is ultimately for the better. This could have easily been yet another dour and depressing look at abuse and violence against women, instead Fennell empowers all of them and gives everyone the revenge, satisfaction, and especially justice that they all deserve. It's been a while since I cried happy tears at an ending, and the combination of the visuals and THAT song playing emotionally overwhelmed me. It's the best of both worlds, the ultimate bittersweet ending (with an emphasis on sweet).

Promising Young Woman might just be the best film of the year. It is the kind of film that made me examine myself and the people around me, something that very few films achieve to this extent. With terrific writing and direction, a masterful lead performance, a score that is both tense and joyful, and an unforgettable third act, this is the cherry on top in a year where the respect for women and the importance of making their voices heard has been a strong theme right from the very beginning.

Story: 8
Directing: 9
Cinematography: 9
Acting: 9
Sound: 9
Visual Effects: 9


Violence & Gore: 5
Sex & Nudity: 4
Drugs & Profanity: 5
Intensity & Horror: 6

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