Promising Young Woman (2020) Review

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.

My Opinion:

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!

Chalet Girl, Austenland & Endless Love Movie Reviews (A Chick Flick Special)

Look at me, watching chick flicks! WHAT?! Well, it happens occasionally – I am a girl, after all. 😉 I just watched Chalet Girl a week ago but the other two were at least a year ago & I never got around to reviewing them so it made sense to do three “chick flick quickies” together. Chicky Flicky Quicky??

Anyway, regulars here will know that I’m not really a chick flick type of girl. My type of chick flick usually involves women kicking ass. Give me Ellen Ripley & Furiosa over romantic bullshit! (Okay, or Drew Barrymore – I watch all of her stuff). So what did I think of these three girly movies? Let’s see!

Chalet Girl (2011)

Directed by Phil Traill

Starring: Felicity Jones, Ed Westwick, Tamsin Egerton, Ken Duken, Sophia Bush, Bill Bailey, Brooke Shields, Bill Nighy

My Opinion:

I LIKED THIS! There. I said it. Is it good? No. Is it cheesy & predictable? Oh god yes! I don’t care. Screw it. Sometimes it’s nice to just have fun with a movie and not be all judgmental & snobby. I enjoyed this one quite a bit for something that’s not normally very “me”.

I might as well start right away with saying that adorable Felicity Jones is 100% to thank for this movie working & being at all watchable. With another actress, it could have been a disaster. I know she was nominated for the Best Actress Oscar for The Theory Of Everything (which I have yet to see) and that she has a lead role in the upcoming Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (a Star Wars role! Lucky girl!) but this is the only film I’ve seen her in. It was a bit weird watching this knowing that she’s gone on to much bigger & better things but it’s easy to see why as she’s so damn likeable in this & has that special “thing” that only a handful of actors have (I’m so crap with words. The only other way I can think of to describe that “thing” is “the X Factor” but that makes me think of those stupid singing competitions with Simon Cowell. Puke!). Anyway, she definitely has that here and if I hadn’t liked her, I would have been bored with this movie.

As for this movie, I don’t know how to talk about it without making it sound bad. I mean, it’s not a good movie but I really liked it so don’t want to trash it. It’s very odd in that it’s a British film that couldn’t be more “American”. I moaned the other day in my review of A Long Way Down that too many British movies are bland dramedies so now I’ll be praising a British film that doesn’t feel at all British. I feel bad about that! I have to say, though, if it had actually been American, they’d probably have cast some horrible actress in the lead role so it wouldn’t have worked. So…. Um, hooray for British people! 😉

I think what worked for me, being a girl who likes strong female movie characters, was the fact that Felicity Jones’ Kim fit the bill. She’s young & she’s a bit unsure of herself after the tragic death of her mother but she’s determined to help her father to pay the bills (which is why she takes a job as a chalet girl in the Alps) and, best of all, she’s a former skateboarding champion. That’s cool! (Not that you ever see her riding a skateboard…). But, inevitably, she takes up snowboarding while in the Alps and it turns out that she has a natural talent for it thanks to her skateboarding years. Shocker, huh?! Oh, and there’s of course a big snowboarding competition coming up with a big cash prize! HUH. What are the odds of that?!?!?! lol

Shit. I’m sounding snobby. Hey, what can I say? This movie is cliché every step of the way. We have the snobby, slutty chalet girl who is pissed off at having to work with “poor girl” Kim, we have the rich boy and a forbidden romance with “poor girl” Kim as well as that boy’s rich-bitch mother who doesn’t approve and, finally, we have the tragic past and a fear that must be overcome in order for Kim to get her life back on track. But, hell – it works. There are just enough laughs and annoyingly “feel good” moments that I found it very hard to not like this movie. I didn’t like the rich boyfriend (soooo not my type but I’m sure some girls will like him). However, some really likeable lesser characters, such as the guy who teaches Kim to snowboard as well as my favorite comedian, Bill Bailey, as her father make up for some of the movie’s mistakes (such as Brooke Shields as the disapproving mother of the rich boy – her character is so damn annoying). The movie has lots of fun moments but doesn’t ever get too silly (although these young kids do know how to party & enjoy a bit of naked hot tub fun…).

Most of all, though, Felicity Jones is just seriously loveable as Kim and you’ll want to see her succeed in every clichéd way possible. Unless you have no soul.

My Rating: 7/10

Would A Manly Man Like This?: Possibly. I think it’s definitely the one that men would find the most bearable of these three.

Austenland (2013)

Directed by Jerusha Hess

Based on Austenland by Shannon Hale

Starring: Keri Russell, JJ Feild, Bret McKenzie, Jennifer Coolidge, James Callis, Jane Seymour, Georgia King

My Opinion:

This movie is weird & utterly ridiculous. Keri Russell plays a lonely American woman obsessed with Jane Austen novels. She saves up her money for “the trip of a lifetime” – a bizarre English retreat run by Jane Seymour where women dress up & partake in Jane Austen-y role play with attractive male actors. Seriously – this movie is bonkers. But, like Chalet Girl, I LIKED THIS ONE TOO!

This has to be the girliest girly movie I’ve watched in years. I should point out that I’ve never read a Jane Austen novel as they just don’t really appeal to me. So, this will have been missing that little extra element of enjoyment for me that I’m sure Austen lovers probably got out of it. I know enough, though, and have watched some period dramas (I actually love the movie Sense & Sensibility) so I was able to enjoy this just fine – I don’t think it’s totally necessary to be an Austen novel reader to like this.

I find Keri Russell to be a pretty likeable actress in what I’ve actually seen her in (she was in one of my absolute favorites of recent years, Waitress, which I plan to praise to high heaven when I do my planned Adrienne Shelly Week at some point). So, I have no complaints there. But, more importantly, my girl Jennifer Coolidge was in this! LOVE her. Yes, she’s once again playing a loveable idiot. Who cares?! It’s funny! I’ll happily watch her play that same idiotic character over & over again. In this, she plays one of the guests at the retreat and, unlike Russell, appears to not have read a Jane Austen novel in her life. She’s just horny & wants some sexy role play with the men. It’s hilarious to see her attempting an English accent and being treated to all the best things at the retreat as she’s paid for the full experience while Russell could only afford the most basic package. A lot of the laughs come from this as Jane Seymour is an evil bitch to poor girl Russell while Coolidge is completely oblivious but totally sweet in her idiocy.

There’s not a lot more that I can really say about this one. It’s the true definition of “chick flick”. I liked that it was quite quirky in its own way, though – the overall concept isn’t really one that we’ve seen in a romcom before. As for the romance, it’s of course there and it’s predictable yet not quite as predictable as some. The movie was a pleasant surprise in that it had more humor than I was expecting and an interesting setup that took some balls to make into a film as this story could have ended up a disaster onscreen (it’s apparently a book but I know nothing about the book). Yes, I said this chick flick has some balls to it! But people with balls would be unlikely to watch this one.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Would A Manly Man Like This?: Oh HELL no! lol. But it’s at least a lot more fun than an actual Jane Austen period drama.

Endless Love (2014)

Directed by Shana Feste

Based on Endless Love by Scott Spencer

Starring: Alex Pettyfer, Gabriella Wilde, Bruce Greenwood, Joely Richardson, Robert Patrick

My Opinion:

I love how Chalet Girl is linked to my two other movies today. A girl in a small role in Chalet Girl was also in Austenland. And… Brooke Shields was in Chalet Girl as well as the superior 1981 adaptation of the Endless Love novel. Oh dear – I just said “superior adaptation” and everyone knows that the 1981 Endless Love is complete & utter shit! Well, so is the 2014 version. But I liked it! Just not an ALL CAPS “I LIKED IT” as with the other two movies I reviewed. Just a lowercase “i liked it” with no formatting.

The two lovers in this 2014 version are so very pretty. So pretty and BORING AS FUCK. Now, I’m of the age where I should love the original Endless Love. However, I was too young for it at first & then didn’t see it until I was well into my twenties so I don’t have the nostalgia thing going on for it. Goddamn it’s bad. It’s seriously shit. But I kind of liked it. I think it’s the law for a girl my age to like the 1981 film. What that film has, at the very least, is passion. The story is a bit pathetic and Shields & whoever the hell the guy was couldn’t act for shit plus the mother of Shields lovingly watches her daughter having sex with the guy (which was beyond weird & creepy) but at least the guy in 1981 had a believable, obsessive passion. The 2014 film has none of that. What’s the point? I don’t know the book so can only compare this to the 1981 film but that film was about an obsession. Alex Pettyfer’s poor boy loving rich girl Gabriella Wilde in 2014 is all well & good but we’ve seen that story a million times. Take out the dangerous obsession & you just end up with two really pretty people who probably have really pretty but really boring sex.

Alex Pettyfer’s poor “bad boy” isn’t a “bad boy” at all. In fact, he’s a sweetheart. He’s in love but not obsessed – he’s not going to go set things on fire or some crazy shit like that. And I praised Gabriella Wilde in that pointless remake of Carrie but, man oh man, her character in this is so DULL. Talk about zero personality! It’s not necessarily her fault – it’s more likely the script. They’re both so sweet & so cute together, though, which makes for a good enough love story. You can’t exactly hate them as they’re SO FUCKING NICE. Too nice. Just…. Ugh! I don’t know. It’s just pointless to call it Endless Love when it’s a completely different film from the other one (other than a tiny bit of tension from “girl’s dad not approving of boy who isn’t good enough for his daughter”). Give me the crazy 1981 obsession, please! Their acting was worse but at least you know they probably had much better sex!

But I still liked this 2014 film in its own right for some reason I seriously can’t explain. Maybe I just like watching really pretty but really dull people making out.

My Rating: 6/10

Would A Manly Man Like This?: Unlikely. But they may find Gabriella Wilde very pretty in a safe & boring kind of way.

Now here’s that sappy piece of shit Lionel Richie & Diana Ross song from the original movie. Complete with clips full of shitty acting from the original movie! God, I really do like that shitty movie…