Promising Young Woman

Promising Young Woman ★★½

For many people with similar tastes as me, Promising Young Woman was one of the most anticipated features of the year, being advertised as a saturated rape-revenge thriller with a feminist edge. The trailers always had me personally on the fence about it, but the more I heard talk about it being a biting dark comedy the more I thought I might actually end up really enjoying it. Unfortunately, now that I've seen it, I find myself still on the fence about it. Although it has an interesting premise and some wonderful candy-coated visuals perfectly paired with a number of great wardrobe/set choices, I struggled with its fluctuating tone and moral compass. It's part revenge "thriller," part rom-com - and I don't think those parts always gel as well as they should.

Ignoring the fact that it occasionally feels at odds with the revenge aspects of the film, one of my biggest issues with the rom-com portion of Promising Young Woman was actually Bo Burnham as an actor. While I've seen some praise his performance of this film, I found it to be pretty stunted and awkward in a way that never felt endearing. The "Stars Are Blind" sequence is fun, but other than that I just never found him to be a really convincing leading man.

The revenge plot feels similarly lackluster, with it seeming like Cass's would-be rapists mostly got off with a slap on the wrist. I didn't necessarily need the scenes to be more violent or thrilling, as I feel is the norm for these kinds of films, but it feels a bit off that these men are just verbally shamed given what Cass eventually ends up doling out as punishment for her former friend, Madison.

Mind you, Cass wasn't even the one directly wronged in this film - the victim, Nina, is already dead before the film begins - a fact which sort of complicates things from the get-go.

The ending is shocking and unexpected, but I'm not entirely mad at it. I respect its boldness to some degree, even if its strange to me that it appears "planned." I also appreciate that the film is pretty sparse on actually showing any sexual violence in spite of the premise. It feels like an even bigger step in the right direction on that front than something like Coralie Fargeat's Revenge.

I don't know. As a directorial debut it definitely shows a lot of promise both in terms of creativity and presentation, and its nice to see a fresh take on what feels like a pretty tired genre, but there's just one too many variables of the narrative here that I wasn't on board with.

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