Promising Young Woman (2020)
Directed & Written by Emerald Fennell
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, Clancy Brown, Jennifer Coolidge, Laverne Cox, Connie Britton
Plot Synopsis: (via IMDb)
A young woman, traumatized by a tragic event in her past, seeks out vengeance against those who crossed her path.
I honestly wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this film before seeing it. Movies are difficult nowadays. Many films have had strong beliefs throughout the years but I feel those from the past ten years or so (and especially in the past five years) present those beliefs in a very different way. I’ve never been against movies with strong or controversial opinions, even if I don’t agree with them. I’m just very against how forced this feels in so many films now. An important and worthy topic doesn’t automatically make a film “good”. I still want a good script, good characters, a gorgeous score & cinematography, and all that other good shit that makes the very best movies true works of art. It’s great if a film has all of that good shit and also manages to have a really good message. I admit that with Oscar nominees these days I always wonder if I’m going to see a strong message with a mediocre film written around it or a good film that also happens to have a strong message that works well within that film.
I did a horrible job explaining that. What I’m saying is that I wondered if Promising Young Woman would be a full-on “all men are evil and must die” movie. Hey, I’m a woman – I’m not gonna pretend I don’t like a good revenge film. Of course I feel strongly about this topic. I’ve always been uncomfortable with “rape revenge” films, though. Although I try to watch most every type of movie that I possibly can to have a fully informed opinion, this is one subgenre I haven’t explored much. I’m not going to look into it, either, as it’s something I don’t want to go searching for but I do wonder how many of these films were made by women? I admit that I probably watched the worst possible example of this subgenre (the 1978 I Spit On Your Grave), so I didn’t want some gory “kill all the men” bloodbath. Exploitation flicks have their place, I guess, but they’ve been done. And I especially didn’t want an extremely exploitative rape scene as in that film. Women don’t want to see that. Those films are made for the excuse to have a graphic rape scene. No thanks. It’s possible to empathise with the victim & want her to get revenge without seeing in graphic detail what happens to her.
Okay, I don’t want to say the word rape anymore. I hate it. Just trying to explain that I wasn’t sure what this movie was going to be. I liked Promising Young Woman a lot. I may have even kind of loved it a little. I’m still not completely sure of the rating I want to give it, though. I feel it’s one of those that I need to think about for a while before I know how I really feel as I can see my opinion of this either going up a lot or possibly going down ever so slightly. I’m really not sure! I felt this way about Mandy… I knew I liked it a lot after seeing it. But after a few months or so of thinking about it, I realised I loved that crazy ass movie & that it’s easily an absolute favorite from recent years. Anyone else ever feel that way about a movie?? I think it’s because I love a divisive film. They excite me. I see too many bland & totally forgettable movies. I’d rather see a slightly “bad” film that’s maybe a bit weird or has a very memorable scene or two than the hundreds of truly boring duds I’ve seen since starting this blog. (Not that Mandy or Promising Young Woman are bad – I think they’re both very good films that are just unconventional)
Carey Mulligan is great in this. We’re all so used to seeing her in “worthy” Suffragette type roles (although I did like that film). But it was fun seeing her like this & I liked her a lot. Although I don’t know if I exactly liked her character. And that’s what I liked! How many times can I say “like”?! I thought this movie did well with the balance I thought it wouldn’t get right. No, it doesn’t portray men in a great light. But it also didn’t have an “all men are bad & all women are good” message. I hate movies like that (unless you’re talking fun sci-fi or fantasy films – I do want straightforward good vs evil in something like Star Wars). But this movie is dealing with a serious real life issue & real life isn’t so black & white. Mulligan’s character is flawed & damaged. You feel for her and you’re on her side but you also don’t always necessarily agree with her & all her methods. You know what else was good? She wasn’t just some kick-ass bitch. I mean, I love a kick-ass bitch! Ellen Ripley rules. But we already have some great female characters like that to look up to so I liked seeing someone more real in this. It’s more relatable. And even when you think she may take some things a little too far, it’s helped by the fact that she’s avenging her best friend. Also, I loved how she fucked with peoples’ minds. That was great & more fun than some super violent revenge porn.
Mulligan is definitely the best thing about this but I also enjoyed the characters played by Bo Burnham & Laverne Cox and their relationships with Mulligan’s character. Clancy Brown & Jennifer Coolidge were also good as her frustrated parents. I was expecting more dark comedy than we got in this, though. I’d have liked much more of that as what we did get worked pretty well. I’d heard beforehand that this movie is sort of a mix of genres and I loved that (as I said, I like unconventional & unpredictable). It was probably hard to classify this film but I’m not sure if I’d agree with those who have included “comedy” in its description. I think some people were probably expecting something very different and can see some really hating this movie but I was pleasantly surprised with how the story played out & loved that it wasn’t at all predictable. I SO wish I hadn’t had the ending spoiled for me on Twitter. Oh, and I liked her colorful fingernails! I liked the use of girly colors in this film (it reminded me of the end of Waitress, a movie I absolutely love).
Well, I’ve rambled on long enough. I know I must have found this film interesting as I haven’t done one of these long rambling “reviews” where I try to sort out my thoughts on a film in a long time. I think the only long reviews I did in recent years were for Mandy, Midsommar & Deep Red. I really liked this film. I’m still thinking about it three days later, especially its unexpected ending. I keep going back & forth on what I want to rate it. 8 & up means I really loved a movie and/or I thought it was a really good film. Is Promising Young Woman worthy of being a Best Picture Oscar nominee? These days it is. It’s certainly my favorite of those nominees I’ve seen so far. But it wouldn’t have been nominated years ago. I’m curious what I’ll think of this one 20 years from now. I look back at some nominees & think “How the hell did that get nominated?”. Will I think that about this? I don’t think so. I’m glad something a little bit unusual & a film that I actually *wanted* to watch is nominated.
My Rating: 8/10
*I may edit this post later & give it 8/10. I don’t know!
**Okay, I did it!
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Spot on! Nicely done. Glad you liked it and glad, like you, that it didn’t go down the played out r—/revenge exploitation road
Thanks! 🙂 Yes, was very glad that it ended up not being anything like those other films. We already have enough of those! Good to have one in this genre actually aimed more at a female audience (and glad that most men I’ve seen mention it seem to like the film).
Nice that it’s a female writer/director as well
You sold me at Clancy Brown! I’m being serious because I think this looks good but in more seriousness, this looks like the only thing out of that whole bunch that looks remotely interesting.
Clancy Brown is cool – I always think of him in Shawshank. And in all seriousness, I’m really curious what you’d make of this movie. I can’t call it on this one! It’s definitely aimed at a female audience in a way that this genre rarely is. But I’ve not seen too many guys say they hated it… (I wouldn’t call it a man-hating film or, worse, one of those SJW movies. You know I hate those!) 🙂
*ahem* The Kurgan.
I love him though. There’s NOTHING I love more than some douchebag preaching at me about something I care less about. But I trust you – I’ll give it a look!
I should watch Highlander again…
You know, that’s a great idea!
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Great review!! First review I’d even read of this film and it’s made me want to watch it.
Emma! Thanks!! I love when I manage to make someone want to see a movie based on my rambling thoughts. Lol. It’s an odd one! I can truly see how some people would hate it but I thought it was good and had a unique and more female-aimed take on this genre. 🙂
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I know what you mean, T9M. I don’t enjoy films where the meaning is forced either. Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner by Stanley Kramer is a good example where it tackles a social issue without explicitly telling you what to think. Apparently Kramer was responsible for making many of Hollywood’s most famous ‘message films’ so I’m going to try and watch some of his others.
Anywho, I really enjoyed Promising Young Woman. It did have its flaws, but on the whole I found it very original and thought-provoking with a terrific cast. Mulligan does a brilliant job and that opening scene is so powerful that I was shouting “Yes!” while watching it.
PS. Rambling reviews are great fun! Keep writing them 🙂 It makes me smile when I go off on one myself and only realise after when proofreading.
Oh, I watched Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner fairly recently for the first time (love Poitier). That one was great – I’ll have to look into Kramer’s other work! 🙂
Mulligan was really good in this one – I liked seeing her in such a different role. Yes, this one did feel very original and I love that as far too few movies feel original these days.
And pretty much all my reviews end up with me rambling. Lol. I find I’m often rambling because I’m trying to sort my thoughts out on the movie as I write about it. I often end up liking it more & giving it a higher rating once I’m done rambling & have talked myself into liking it a bit more. 😉 (or, occasionally, I end up liking it a little less…)
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