Promising Young Woman: Film Review

Promising Young Woman

Back in early 2020, before the cinemas closed, I saw the trailer for Emerald Fennell‘s Promising Young Woman before I watched a movie and I was like, “This looks amazing, I can’t wait to see it!” and that feeling hasn’t left me in the many months that’s passed since that moment. And now, after many delays, I have FINALLY seen Promising Young Woman.

The film stars Carey Mulligan as Cassandra ‘Cassie’ Thomas, who pretends to be drunk in bars to trick men into taking her home for sex so she can teach them a lesson about consent. She has also has a five-part plan to get revenge on the men who sexually assaulted her best friend Nina in college as well as those who knew about it and did nothing.

This is an unapologetic, daring, blistering film which has a lot to say about sexual assault, consent, and how female victims are usually blamed for what happens to them while the men get the benefit of the doubt. It also addresses the old movie trope of men having their way with women when they’re too drunk to consent – that seemed acceptable and normal back then and Promising Young Woman drives home the message that this is very much not OK.

It’s impressive that this is Fennell’s directorial debut because she pitched it perfectly. I wasn’t sold on a couple of scenes – the Stars are Blind moment in the pharmacy and the very end – but otherwise I thought Fennell had complete control of the tone, how dark she wanted it to go and where she wanted Cassie to sit on the sane/crazy scale. Her screenplay is smart and very well-written; she makes her points loud and clear without making it preachy and occasionally softens the revenge thriller aspect with some romantic comedy moments. I also loved the pastel colour palette, Cassie’s feminine clothes and her cute manicure, and how they worked in contrast to the darkness of the subject matter.

Promising Young Woman

Fennell’s casting was also spot-on. Mulligan wouldn’t usually be first choice for Cassie because she is best known for her work in period dramas and as “nice” characters and this unexpected casting makes her performance so much more exciting. I love it when actors get to do something completely different. I enjoyed watching her playing such a bold ballsy role, dressing up in sexy outfits, always looking in control in difficult situations, and confronting people about tough subjects with a smile on her face like it’s a normal casual conversation. Mulligan nails the part and I’m so thrilled she’s been Oscar nominated for it.

But it’s not just the lead role that Fennell aced the casting with – I’m not too familiar with Bo Burnham‘s onscreen acting work but I thought he was the right fit as Cassie’s love interest Ryan; he was cute, awkward, and funny and I liked his personality. And then there are so many actors I love in small roles, like Alison Brie as Cassie’s neurotic former friend Madison, Molly Shannon as Nina’s sympathetic mum, Alfred Molina as a remorseful lawyer, and Connie Britton as the dean of Cassie’s old college. And it was smart casting actors you would normally associate with good guy roles as Cassie’s targets, such as Adam Brody, Max Greenfield, Chris Lowell, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse.

I have to talk about that ending. You’ll be getting no spoilers from me as you should go into this film knowing as little as possible – but holy cow! The conclusion left me reeling and struggling to process my thoughts so I’m glad they managed to come together so I could write this review. It will leave you thinking for hours after the credits roll.

I’d been hyped for this release for a long time so I was expecting perfection, which is a huge amount of expectation to put on a film! It wasn’t perfect but I loved basically everything about it – the concept, the points Fennell makes, the casting, the wardrobe, the soundtrack (that string version of Toxic is so chilling!) and it deserves every success it’s had this awards season. I don’t think it’ll win the Best Picture Oscar but I would love it to win Best Original Screenplay.

Do yourselves a favour and go watch this film.

Available on Sky Cinema and NOW from Friday 16th April

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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