Promising Young Woman

Promising Young Woman ★★★½


First movie I've seen in theaters since Portrait of a Lady on Fire, and hey look, an actual genuine 3.5! (Sorry, The Little Things, I still like you even though I can't defend you). I skimmed some reviews before writing this one, since some of the topics are controversial, but really, I don't have anything I feel I should add other than maybe agreeing with the ending being too cheerful. There's one moment I thought things had gone too far, but they walked it back a bit, so in the context of the film I'm not too bothered by it. Otherwise, I thought that it handled things pretty well if you're into films that wear their themes on their sleeves, which is like my third favorite genre of films (see: mother!).

Most of what's great here, though, is Carey Mulligan and Bo Burnham's performances. At one point in time, I felt as if I cared about themes and visuals above all in a film, but recently it feels like most reviews I write have started to skew towards well played roles, and both of them do a really good job. Mulligan is one of those actresses that never really gets a chance to shine, and this feels doubly true considering she's one of those chameleon performers like Gary Oldman and Brie Larson. I honestly did not recognize her in the trailer, but that's to this films credit- there's no way in hell you're going to be thinking about her performances in Drive or The Great Gatsby as she's burning through the screen here with sincere anger. Bo Burnham actually managed to stay on her level for the most part, too. He has a few hand motions he resorts back to, making him stand out as a relative amateur MAYBE a little bit, but I think that was me looking for ways he could be considered weak here since he was blowing me away. I still haven't watched his standup, but I think I'm honestly putting him on one of those "if he's involved, I should check it out" watch lists.

The biggest disappointment was actually the style here. The trailer is probably a top 10/top 5 of the past decade trailers for me, but it felt a little sloppier here. The title card particularly stuck out as a mismatch to a lot of the film's visual style, and it only dipped into the neon-drenched aesthetic a few times. Every once in a while, though, there are shots that standout, such as one with a kiss in front of a piece of wall art, an image that feels as if it came from an alternate, pastel-tinted Drive. This all leaves me hopeful, however, as this is Fennell's first full-length feature, so I think she'll just get better at that.

Overall, it maybe felt a tad empty, as others have said, and I wish the visuals and vibes were closer to the trailer, but it was a pretty strong first movie back.