Movie Review: PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN
After the buzz out of Sundance almost a year ago (in a year that makes it seem like it’s been a decade), Promising Young Woman has easily been one of the most anticipated film releases of the year. After finally arriving in theaters over the holidays, it’s clear to see why it has been getting so much attention – and great to report that it lives up to the hype.
Carey Mulligan turns in a tour-de-force performance as Cassandra – a “promising young woman” who dropped out of medical school after the death of her best friend Nina. The details surrounding her death remain mysterious until the end, so it is best to go in without reading too much about her fate. What we do know is that terrible men had something to do with it, and Cassandra has made it her life’s goal to make as many of them think twice about their actions as possible. So she spends her days working at a coffee shop, and moonlights as a woman pretending to be drunk at bars – waiting for men to try and take advantage of her and then teaching them a lesson. Again, I will remain purposefully vague here.
The film is extremely powerful, and couldn’t be more relevant than the world right now. Toxic masculinity runs rampant, gender inequality is everywhere, and it constantly seems like men are given second chances – where one wrong move can ruin a woman’s life and career. The film is an analysis of all these issues, while never feeling preachy or like an education. The way writer and first-time director Emerald Fennell has crafted the script is masterful, giving us equally compelling and entertaining characters while never ceasing to make us feel uncomfortable along the way.
Along her journey of vindication, Cassandra meets several men exhibiting disturbing behavior, and then Ryan – an old medical school classmate of hers played by Bo Burnham. Understandably, she keeps her guard up – and it is hard for her to trust men after everything she has gone through – and continues to go through. Eventually she gives in, and gives him enough of a chance to change her mind – and the two form a sweet and very likable relationship. And the audience is taken along for the ride, experiencing the same ups and downs and eventually finding relief that the main character can find some happiness. Without going into too many more details, let’s just say it is quite the emotional roller coaster.
There are some very good performances throughout the film, but make no mistake – this is the Carey Mulligan show. The actor is extremely talented, and has been terrific in so many of my favorite films over the years. But this is next level, and she deserves all of the accolades bestowed upon her. This is one of the best performances of the year, in one of the best films of the year.
Promising Young Woman is a film that everyone needs to see. No matter who you are, what walk of life you are from, or what you have experienced – there is something to learn from the valuable lessons it teaches. It also reminds us to be kind to one another, as we always should. To treat others with the respect and dignity that we all deserve. And it’s 2020, so we should not have to be reminded to listen to and believe women. Hopefully this film will speak to those who can benefit from its lessons, and give hope to the women who can use it.