“Promising Young Woman” openly challenges society’s misogynistic and patriarchal mindset as it follows Cassandra (Carey Mulligan), a woman seeking revenge against those involved in her friend’s sexual assault. I’ve been reading and hearing an overwhelmingly positive reception about this film since its premiere at Sundance earlier this year. Does it live up to the hype? Oh, absolutely! It is a breath of fresh air.
Perfectly opening with a catchy song that stays in your head, “Promising Young Woman” immediately builds atmosphere and mood. Cassandra goes to bars and pretends to be heavily intoxicated to attract predators; then she turns on them when the moment is right, her revenge against the individuals responsible for failing to hold an abuser accountable for his actions. She doesn’t have any trouble finding these men. Staying true to the animal kingdom, predators are always out searching for the next prey.
Mulligan (“Suffragette,” “The Great Gatsby”) is one of my favorite actresses currently working. She’s underrated and always delivers extraordinarily memorable performances. Her portrayal of Cassandra is superb with numerous scenes leaving an everlasting impact. Her ability to act a particular way at the clubs and then transition to her badass cold personality during an encounter with one of the “gentlemen” suitors or working at the cafe can be only done by someone as talented as she is.
Emerald Fennell, a screenwriter (“Killing Eve”) and actress (“The Crown”), makes her feature directorial debut with “Promising Young Woman”, which she also wrote. In addressing sexual abuse, rape, sexual harassment, double standards, and sexism, the film is bound to get people talking. Cassandra’s conversations with two women about the past incident shows how deeply rooted misogyny is embedded in the psyche and how discussion is vital for a deeper understanding of the consequences these actions inflict on victims.
Co-starring Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, Laverne Cox, Chris Lowell, Jennifer Coolidge and Alfred Molina, “Promising Young Woman” has an understandably concerning (or controversial) message in its storyline. But instead of an eye for an eye, some viewers might interpret it the way I did: placing abusers (for one brief moment) in a victim’s shoes. Many won’t agree with its tactics or the shocking ending, but it’s a strong metaphor.
Overall, “Promising Young Woman” is a bold, thrilling movie carried by Mulligan’s standout performance, whose character represents women’s bottled frustration as sexually abused victims in a misogynistic, patriarchal society. Its stylistic costumes, production design, and cinematography aren’t only to satisfy visual appetites but successfully help the narrative. One of the best films of 2020, this is a must watch.