Promising Young Woman (2020)

"Can you guess what every woman’s worst nightmare is?""Can you guess what every woman’s worst nightmare is?"

“Can you guess what every woman’s worst nightmare is?”

Revenge is a dish best served cold. Like most revenge stories, Promising Young Woman doesn’t shy away from the shock value of the situation that is placed on the protagonist’s shoulders when we meet them in the beginning of the story. Where writer / director Emerald Fennell gets her inspiration from is easily traced back to the #meToo movement that swarmed through Hollywood in recent years. 

Cassie (Carey Mulligan) goes to a bar by herself with no one to look after her and gets completely wasted, or so we think. Fumbling around on a sofa, Cassie catches the eye of Jerry (Adam Brody) who offers to take care of her and see her home safely. What Jerry doesn’t know is that Cassie is completely sober to catch men in the act of taking advantage of vunerable women. Cassie at a glance looks to be a typical young woman (as the title would imply) but she is 30, lives with her parents (to their displeasure) and is a med school dropout who works part time at a coffee shop. 

As Cassie wreaks havoc on those who claim they are “nice guys”, an old classmate of hers, Ryan (Bo Burnham) insists on taking Cassie out on a date. Ryan is an actual nice guy unlike the coked-up weirdo Neil (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Ryan coming back into Cassie’s life sends her down a path of revenge while also discovering what she’s been missing out on all these years of false intoxicated revenge. The moment Burnham is introduced, he and Mulligan have instant chemistry. Ryan is a charming Knight in shining armor sent in to sweep Cassie off her feet while Cassie just oozes confidence with every action and movement. 

“Every week, I go to a club. I act like I’m too drunk to stand. And every week a nice guy comes over to see if I’m okay.”

Mulligan commands the screen, stealing the attention from whomever else is on screen with her. She’s a strong independent woman who is fierce in her convictions but can’t let the past go no matter how hard she tries. Right from the beginning the direction in where the film is going is established and Emerald Fennell doesn’t hold back the punches. Though we don’t actually see what happened in the past that made Cassie what she is, the picture gets painted well with the few details that are given.

As the plot unfolds Cassie has no choice but to confront the people she once saw as friends. She’s a lioness stalking her prey. Ordering a ginger ale for herself and champagne for Madison (Alison Brie) to give appearance that Cassie is just as drunk gives the impression that this isn’t a game, there are consequences to actions no matter what your gender is. In reality Cassie is playing Chess with those who are playing checkers. Everything is thought out and she has the confidence to make it work in her favor. 

Promising Young Woman bares its teeth and fights back. The script by Fennell is strong with its darker set theme that is sprinkled with some earned humor and charm. Pacing can feel off at times especially with scenes at dinner with Cassie’s parents Stanley (Clancy Brown) and Susan (Jennifer Coolidge) and the visit to Nina’s (Her friend who was raped but no one believes it) mother (Molly Shannon). On the other hand, there are some scenes that make up for the unevenness in the script. Letting what happens in the pharmacy play out in its entirety is one of the better decisions Fennell made instead of cutting it short. We get the full glimpse of the beginning of Cassie’s transformation that highlights Bo and Carey’s chemistry. 

“I’m a nice guy.”

Promising Young Woman at times feels like it’s all over the place with its tone. Is it a dark comedy? Is it serious in the lesson that it successfully conveys to the audience? Is it a charmingly sweet love story? It’s all three blended into one but the shifts can feel off at points. 

Cassie’s revenge plan is nearly bulletproof. When unexpected forces come into play by way of Al Monroe (Chris Lowell) and Joe (Max Greenfield), the twist feels strange, like it wasn’t real or something big was still to happen. Fennell delivers the payoff perfectly even with the predictability behind it. It can be seen a mile away but the film as a whole makes up for that. Max Greenfield no matter what role he takes will always be Schmidt from New Girl. He can’t shake the mannerisms and cadence from that character from this one making it indistinguishable. 

Without context the events in Promising Young Woman can be seen as cruel and downright evil but as we get more pieces of information on what happened it’s clear that Cassie’s actions are 100% justified.

Promising Young Woman does an incredible job of exposing the outlook and stigma attached to rape from both the male and female perspective. To a man – the worst nightmare is being accused of rape but to a woman the worst nightmare is actually being on the receiving end. Fennell delivers on driving that point home but the pacing and shift in tones keep Promising Young Woman from being a masterpiece. Carey Mulligan is intimidating yet sweet who is hypnotizingly perfect in her lead role. If I were to rate Promising Young Woman, I’d rate it a 4.1 out of 5.  

So, tell me guys, have you seen Promising Young Woman and if so, what do you think about it? Do you agree or disagree with me? Comment below or send me an email and let me know what you think. 

Promising Young Woman is written & directed by Emerald Fennell is Rated R and has a 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. Promising Young Woman was released on December 25, 2020 and has a runtime of 1 hour and 54 minutes. Promising Young Woman can be seen in theaters or in one week available to purchase by online retailers such as iTunes, Google and Amazon.

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