Promising Young Woman

Promising Young Woman ★★★★

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

This review may contain spoilers.

Watching again before I vote on WGA nominees. As before, 1) I REALLY wish I could have seen it in a theater with an audience and 2) Universal’s digital screeners leave much to be desired. The first time I saw it was at a live web screening that skipped and buffered, and the digital copy here was blurry and pixelated. I’m going to have to buy the Blu-ray just to properly appreciate the look and design of this movie.

That said, it held up really nicely on a second viewing. Still a poisoned candy apple and Carey Mulligan should probably win the Oscar.

The ending is a shocker that works so well, but also the one part of the script I take issue with. After showing us over and over again that the establishment and conventional authority figures can’t be trusted, Fennell expects us to believe that Cassie would willingly martyr herself and trust that the cops would handle everything?

Fennell wants to play with revenge movie tropes and seemingly intends for the audience to get a bitter kick when the men get their comeuppance. But is justice actually served when Cassie has to die for Nina to be remembered? Most people seem to take that final winking emoji as a triumph - for me it wasn’t a KILL BILL moment of empowerment but a sick shot of bile, which again doesn’t track because NOW the legal system is suddenly trustworthy and competent?

I don’t fault the movie for any of this... quite the opposite. Fennell purposefully doesn’t make easy choices. It’s a conversation piece and the dialogue surrounding this film is in a way more vital than the film itself. I also don’t think it’s my place as a dude to tell female viewers how to feel about a film centered around sexual assault, so I’m more interested to hear how others are interpreting it.

This is a work that entertains while asking a lot of hard questions and manages to be breezily paced, icky, fun, and original all at once. It doesn’t 100% come together but maybe that’s the point and Fennell seems to know what she’s doing (even if you don’t love the final scene, most directors don’t get this close to a home run on their first feature and DEFINITELY not with material this ambitious).

Also the NIGHT OF THE HUNTER and “Something Wonderful” needle drops are master strokes. And again, Carey fucking Mulligan. Of all the films in 2020 that should have been seen with an audience buzzing on their way out of the theater, this one deserved it the most.

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