Promising Young Woman

Promising Young Woman ★★★★½

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

Really good. Revenge thrillers usually feel pretty one note to me, so this is probably one of the best I’ve ever seen in the genre thanks to how it subverts the typical story beats, and the unique catharsis baked into the story. Typically the protagonist of these films is some guy whose wife was murdered chasing down villains with a gun, usually feeling like some sort of pro-NRA, second-amendment-tattooed-on-my-chest sort of thing, so flipping the gender and making the revenge itself much more interesting and satisfying via the clever plans Cassie comes up with makes this feel very fresh. I like how her revenge is more about highlighting the hypocrisies of the people who wronged Nina (“we’ve got to give these boys the benefit of the doubt”) and how it shows that misogyny is so baked into society it can make women treat other women poorly too. Plus the way it examines rape culture and toxic masculinity; I like that a lot of the men highlighted were not ostensibly the toxic ones - for example Adam Brody seeming like he’s the “good” one of his bro trio - only to reveal that the nice guys that may say the right stuff can be just as dangerous. Mintz-Plasse repeating all the woke feminist lines, not because he believes them but because he knows that they can be weaponised as basically pickup lines at this point, is a great example of the kind of person who thinks they’re a good person and would probably call themselves a feminist, but in practice are just as bad as the people they probably call out on their very liberal Twitter feeds (as we see, none of this behaviour is ever really called out by other men in public. Burnham can’t even bear to give up the info that Cassie was going to Al’s bachelor party!).

Mulligan is really good in a role I probably would never have expected to her excel at, and the casting of Burnham is pretty clever because his character is exactly the kind of person he’s been making fun of in his comedy for years. On stage he always jumps between his sincere “real" self and the self-absorbed stage persona, so while that makes it immediately clear that he’d eventually turn heel, it’s still a great use of him.

And once the ending kicked in - everything happening from once Al is tied to the bed - I really thought that the film was going for a thoroughly depressing but unfortunately true-to-life ending where the men get away with everything, ending with Al getting happily married, another privileged guy (literally) disposing of a woman’s body and getting his happy ending anyway. That would have been a very subversive finale and obviously would have left a bad taste in the mouth, but I could see the logic to going ahead with it to elucidate how often the abusive man escapes punishment. But I’m still happy with the ending we got, because it’s obviously incredibly satisfying even if it comes about in an unexpected and bittersweet way. Great use of soundtrack too. Never heard of the director before, but looking forward to seeing how she follows this up. Hell of a debut.

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