PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN
FOCUS FEATURES (2020)
Written and Directed by Emerald Fennell
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, Laverne Cox, Clancy Brown, Jennifer Coolidge, Alfred Molina.
On Demand / Theaters January 15, 2020.
Emerald Fennell, actress most recently recognizable as “Camilla Parker Bowles” in Netflix’s The Crown, and a producer on Killing Eve, makes her feature film debut with this absorbing and slyly funny revenge thriller.
The film is a superbly structured story about Cassie, the troubled woman in the title, who embarks upon a revenge campaign related to some dark incident in her past.
While the whole cast are excellent, it’s the award-winning Carey Mulligan who dominates the screen time with a fabulous multi-layered performance.
To say that the film is a slow burn would be an injustice as there’s barely a moment where you are not served with great dialogue, witty performances, beautiful photography, or gripping tension.
Cassie’s demons drive her through the opening sections of the film where in the day time she is a quiet unassuming coffee shop server but by night dons a range of gaudy outfits to entrap men. Yet it is more than that, for Cassie is coping with the horrors of sexual assault.
Her early experiences with these men leave us wondering just what she does to them, whether humiliation or worse, and her campaign is against the kind of man who’d cite locker room humor to justify behavior which clearly demeans, offends, or physically assaults women.
So is it part of the #METOO movement? Is it a response to WOKE culture? Is Cassie the hero or the villain? As the film progresses the viewer is left processing the meaning of her actions. Does the end justify the means? Should some things be dismissed because they were long ago?
From the neon-drenched nightclubs to the hazy small-town tree-lined avenues, the film switches palettes as often as the clever screenplay plays with your expectations. Some may struggle with the shifts in tone, but the film is deliberately keeping viewers on their toes: don’t get complacent, pay attention.
You feel for her and you fear for her. You’ll follow her to the end, and the unexpected conclusion will continue the conversation long after the film is over.
This gripping film should gain a lot of positive word of mouth, and you’d wonder if a full cinema release last year as intended would have given it breakout indie hit status.
I’d be very surprised if this film didn’t pick awards for both Carey Mulligan and Emerald Fennell.
PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN is now available on demand in the US.
International release dates continue throughout February and March.
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