REVIEW: Promising Young Woman ★★★★☆
The New York Times called it the performance of Carey Mulligan's career. I tend to agree.
An absolutely electric dark comedy written and directed by Emerald Fennel (who you may know as Camilla Parker-Bowles from the latest season of The Crown), Promising Young Woman was tacky, violent and just right.
Carey Mulligan plays Cassie, a thirty-year-old dropout whose life was turned upside down when her best friend was raped whilst they were both in their second year of medical school . The film opens with Cassie's confrontational coping mechanism: each night she attends a nightclub alone, pretends to be drunk and vulnerable, poised to see which creep will take her home. Someone always does.
Described as a 'tonal tightrope walk', Mulligan is tasked with balancing a character who constantly threatens to break into cliche, to suspend the belief of viewers. Instead, Mulligan manages to produce a traumatised woman who is devastatingly real.
The movie is indescribably different to other iconic feminist films. In this high-gloss, pastel world exists the most uncomfortably violent cinematic experience. Fennell manages to construct a narrative which perfectly intersects tacky and meaningful, leaning into cringeworthy moments in a way that furthers the goal of leaving the audience writhing, begging for the tension to be broken with a happy ending. An ending which will never come.
The casting, wardrobe and score perfectly align with the commentary the film provides. The unthreatening, pastel costume design provided to Cassie re-enforces the narrative Fennell is directing us to comprehend, that our presentation and appearance does not and cannot amount to evidence our wrongdoing, of who we really are.
The overwhelming reminder that the script reveals is particularly significant: each of these men think of themselves as the good guys, the nice guys, I mean...doesn't everyone? But what happens when we point out that they aren't? When we raise the alarm?
No one is safe from the Kill Bill-esque vengeance of Cassie. As audience members, we are absolutely not let off the hook either. I left the cinema in an absolute head spin. Finally, we have a movie which refuses to forgive the mistakes. A film which is free from a redemptive male character arc or fluffy apologies for a past wrong. This achingly authentic testament to trauma, friendship and the female experience has liberated itself from leaving any man in good stead. The discomfort is left in the air alongside a fucking banging instrumental cover of Britney's Toxic.
I would absolutely recommend this film to any hardcore feminists looking to feel empowered by a gritty female lead, and to the 'nice guys'.
Watch the trailer here.