Movie Review: Promising Young Woman

While more courts of law around the world are treating cases of rape more seriously than they have in the past, too many judges are still siding with the perpetrator, with some letting them off with just a slap on the wrist. Even worse, victims are often vilified when they report the incidents to authorities. Is it any wonder, then, that so few rape victims even come forward? Writer-director Emerald Fennell, who may be best known as THE CROWN’s Camilla Parker Bowles, decided to make her debut feature film about an indirect victim of rape. Her protagonist, though, deals with the trauma by taking justice into her own hands after it was denied to the rape victim.

In PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN, 29-year-old Cassandra (Carrie Mulligan, WILDLIFE; INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS; AN EDUCATION) works in a café during the day, serving lattes and pastries to customers who come into the shop. At night, however, she sheds her Britney Spears schoolgirl fantasy image, dresses provocatively and goes to bars where she pretends to be so drunk that she can barely stand up. Invariably, a guy takes her under his wing, and drives her to his home where he tries to have his way with her. But these guys never do. In the morning, Cassie writes their names in her notebook – another notch in her gun, so to speak. One day, Ryan (Bo Burnham, THE BIG SICK), a former classmate from med school (oh, did I forget to mention that Cassie was once a promising young med student?) comes into the café. The two of them hit it off and start to have a relationship until he mentions to her that another former classmate, Al Monroe (Chris Lowell, TV’s GLOW and PRIVATE PRACTICE), is about to get married. Al, we learn, raped Nina, Cassie’s best friend, when they were all in school together seven years earlier. At the time, the university’s dean (Connie Britton, BOMBSHELL; PROFESSOR MARSTON AND THE WONDER WOMEN; ME AND EARL AND THE DYING GIRL; TV’s FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS and AMERICAN HORROR STORY), swept the incident under the table, which resulted in both Nina and Cassie dropping out of school. With that news, Cassie decides the time is right for her to up her game and mete out justice to everyone who wronged Nina in her time of need.

PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN is wicked and, at times, even funny in a revenge thriller way. Mulligan gives what may be her best on screen performance yet as a deeply troubled woman who has built a wall between her two personas as a coping mechanism for an event that shattered her life. It’s when that wall starts crumbling that the story gets really interesting with Cassie giving those people who let her and Nina down so gravely a small taste of what Nina’s life must have been like after her rape. Interestingly, Fennell casts some very familiar movie and TV actors including Adam Brody, Jennifer Coolidge, Alison Brie, Britton, Molly Shannon, Max Greenfield and Alfred Molina in small but pivotal roles. PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN is all Mulligan’s show though and she delivers.

PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN is well worth seeing. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mulligan nab an Oscar® nomination for her performance here, with Molina possibly even getting a nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. The film is playing now in cinemas that are still open. It was supposed to go to the streaming services after Xmas but I don’t see that it’s available anywhere yet. If it is, please let me know!

Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live on Friday, January 8th, 8:30 am HK time!

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