Promising Young Woman (2020)

promising young woman poster 2020 movie
9.0 Overall Score
Story: 9/10
Acting: 10/10
Visual: 9/10

Mulligan, Good movie that asks the right questions

Some aspects of the end were expected

Movie Info

Movie Name: Promising Young Woman

Studio: Movie Studio

Genre(s): Movie Genre

Release Date(s): Movie Release Date

MPAA Rating: Movie Rating

promising young woman connie britton carey mulligan

Your daughter’s reputation is different than my friend’s reputation? Funny how that works out…

An event happened in Cassie Thomas (Carey Mulligan) life in med school that changed her…she dropped out and now works as a barista at a local coffee shop while living with her parents (Clancy Brown and Jennifer Coolidge).  She spends her nights going to bars and scaring men who think they are taking home a young, drunk girl for some fun…but the past is about to come back to haunt Cassie.  When she meets a former classmate named Ryan Cooper (Bo Burnham), she learns realizes the people responsible for the pain she has been feeling moved on with their lives with no consequences.  Cassie is out for revenge and is there to show that the past might be forgotten, but it can’t stay buried.

Written and directed by Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman is a dark comedy-drama thriller.  The movie premiered at Sundance in 2020 before the COVID-19 outbreak and was released in December of that year.  The film received positive reviews and received an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay with nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress (Mulligan), Best Directing, and Best Film Editing.

promising young woman alfred molina carey mulligan

When you meet someone who out crazies you…and is genuinely wrecked by his past…

Promising Young Woman is one of those movies that isn’t easy.  Like with many dark comedies, it a movie that starts out with some fun moments and starts to takes dark, dark, dark turns.  Due to the plot of the film a ******spoiler alert****** is in effect for the rest of the review.

The movie starts out a little misleading in that you think that the trauma happened to Cassie, but you shortly learn that it was Cassie’s best friend who suffered a very public drunken rape, reported it, has the charges dismissed, and later committed suicide.  Cassie not only is angry about her friend and the injustice, but she has survivor’s guilt (she didn’t go with her).  For the character it is a big game of What If?, but for the people involved in the attack, it was simply “remember when”.  It is a case of “they were just kids”, and though many had moved on, that doesn’t help the victim of the crime…often for them, time is frozen.

promising young woman drugstore bo burnham carey mulligan

Raises the question…was he a bad guy when you didn’t know about the past he had forgotten?  If he never remembered, and you never knew, would your life had been happy?

The story feels a lot like a parallel to Looking for Mr. Goodbar which involved a woman seeking out more and more dangerous sexual partners which eventually leads to her death.  Here, it isn’t a game for Cassie, but even early on, it feels like it won’t end well for her.  The surfacing of a tape reignites her feeling for revenge, and the only slight fault (note slight) is that poison pill that Cassie leaves behind is pretty obvious (though it is still done well).

I’ve been a big Carrie Mulligan fan for years since her appearance on Doctor Who and she just seems to always bring something different to her roles.  This movie has the wink and smile type feel to the character, but scenes like with Alfred Molina show she’s barely keeping in control.  The film is loaded with great supporting roles including Alison Brie, Laverne Cox, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Adam Brody, Clancy Brown, Molly Shannon, and Jennifer Coolidge among others…a lot of the guys Cassie confronts oddly all look rather alike (which feels intentional).  The impressive scene between Mulligan and Connie Britton is a reminder that it isn’t just men who cover up these crimes and judge the women involved, but there is a culture of dismissiveness involving women as well.

promising young woman bachelor party nurse carey mulligan

This isn’t going to end well….

The film also looks great.  Fennell who has acted in multiple roles (she cameos as an internet instructor in the film) really demonstrates a great first outing and her connection to the material as the writer of course helps.  The movie pops and scenes like the ending has everything come together both visually and thematically.

Promising Young Woman is an odd case of “revenge”.  It isn’t Fatal Attraction where you root for the man who has made a mistake, but it also has moments where as a viewer you have to question if things can or should be “let go” and let the past be the past.  Were the actions of the men and women wrong?  Yes.  Were they “just kids”?  No.  Had some of them changed their lives?  Yes.  Can a tiger change its stripes?  No.  Can people?  Debatable.  The movie asks the right questions and doesn’t give you a clean cut answer because there often aren’t clean cut answers…who is Cassie doing it for?  Herself?  Nina?  The answer isn’t clear nor should it be.

Related Links:

The 93rd Academy Award Nominations

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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