Promising Young Woman

Promising Young Woman ★★½

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

This review may contain spoilers.

"Do I really seem like the sort of woman who would do that?" is said about leaving a teenage girl in the hands of creepy rock stars from a character who had just one scene ago arranged to gaslight another woman into believing she was raped by sketch guy at a restaurant. The answer is yes.

Y'know, I don't pretend to know better on this subject matter than Emerald Fennell but as a piece of screenwriting rather than as a social commentary... there's moral ambiguity and there's outright protagonist-hating nihilism and it is very easy to pinpoint the area where this movie stops feinting towards the former and outright indulging in the latter. And I say feinting because this never particularly feels like a movie with much nuance to its subversion of the "rape-and-revenge" genre it dresses up as... no musing on how revenge is a toxically masculine way to respond to female trauma, nothing done with the shallow placemats that is every character that is not Cassie, nothing done to consider the violence we see and the violence we don't see, nothing done with Cassie's status as a cipher for that revenge except... well, an ending that tries to have its shock factor cake and eat it when it comes to a final 2 minutes laughably suggesting that the law has proven to be a worthwhile conduit for justice in the continuing issue of rape culture.

And what's really frustrating is that EVERYTHING ELSE about this movie is going exactly right to me. The sharp angry makeup on Carey Mulligan that does miraculously severe things to her jawline, the performances all doing their part impeccably no matter how contrived their characterizations are with Mulligan at the center giving more life to Cassie as a living figure than Fennell could do in her writing, and EVEN Fennell as a director is doing so much right. She's able to pull this out as an unexpectedly watchable movie for its dark premise and works with her editor and cinematographer to stress the dynamics of any given scene based on angle and headspace... so much disorienting headspace while having a wonderfully sarcastic use of bubbly colors in the context of a very scarred life.

This is as close to a 3 star passing grade movie as I can imagine it would be even with the half-baked script, if those last few scenes hadn't left a bad taste in my mouth by the time I walked away. It's uncharacteristic of the film that precedes that third act and maybe in another film - one that actually allows Carey Mulligan to cut off rapist's dicks or carve victims' names on their rapists - it would come across as amoral.

In THIS context... and I hate using this word about art, to be honest... it's outright immoral.

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