Every trailer I saw for this film made me want to see it more and more so I was excited when I received an invitation to review it. Carey Mulligan looks fantastic in the trailers and the premise sounds original and intriguing. The cast is an incredible group of actors and I couldn’t wait to see it. After watching, I can honestly say every reaction I had was right. The writing is insightful and smart. The acting is brilliant and the humor dark but witty. This is one of the most intelligent plots I’ve watched and the ending packed the perfect punch.
Billed as a dark comedy, Promising Young Woman is directed, written, and produced by Emerald Fennell in her feature directorial debut, the movie stars Carey Mulligan as Cassie Thomas, a young woman who appears to be a medical school dropout and lives at home with her parents, Stanley and Susan (Clancy Brown, Jennifer Coolidge) while working in a coffee shop for Gail (Laverne Cox). But nothing in Cassie’s life is as it seems. Cassie lives a secret double life at night, seeking revenge on men who wrong women. A chance encounter with a young man, Ryan (Bo Burnham) gives Cassie a chance to right the wrongs of the past. But will she continue to seek revenge or will she give up the past to live her life?
This plot is incredible, richly detailed, and exquisitely planned out. Every detail is important. Each encounter that Cassie has either informs the viewer about her character, her past and present or leads the story along to the ultimate conclusion. I’m not terribly surprised to find out Emerald Fennell was a showrunner on Killing Eve as that is another show that gives us intelligent, skilled women in the leading roles. This film does the same. Cassie is written as intelligent and even when she makes what seem like foolhardy decisions, she has a plan. Her plans are methodical and every detail thought out just like the writer’s decisions. The plot is a clever commentary on toxic masculinity and society, as so often men just move on with their lives, leaving women reeling from their choices and a devastated life. The title itself gives away the premise, how many promising young women are left broken by promising young men who fail to care about the consequences of their actions and are never held accountable. While not every man in the story is portrayed as toxic, the various men show the different ways men use the people around them to get what they want. But the film is honest in showing the times men grow and do learn from past mistakes. But the drive and the purpose in the movie are all female, driven by Cassie’s desire for revenge and it is revenge that is a delight, each action appropriate and perfectly planned, giving an unflinching look at rape culture and the ways men evade justice.
The humor is dark and I can see the moments where this deserves to be billed as a comedy. The irony and sarcasm are what drive the plot and add to the commentary on society. There are moments in the film where Cassie’s boyfriend, Ryan, makes you laugh out loud, with his geeky and awkward moments as he flirts with her and wins her over, despite her experiences with men and their behavior. But the funniest aspects are when Cassie plots her revenge and her commentary on the men around her. And while this is funny, it is the more dramatic moments that made me fall in love with the characters and the story.
The performances are phenomenal. Carey Mulligan drives this story and it would not be the same without her energy and charisma, her ability to portray Cassie as both smart but broken by the events of her past. She is both provocative and mesmerizing as she plans out each moment of her plan. But hers is not the only amazing performance. Bo Burnham as Ryan is witty, funny, and charming, portraying Ryan perfectly as the sweet boyfriend until we see a darker side. Alison Brie as old college friend Miranda is high-strung and her performance as she encounters Cassie, is emotional and as opposite from Cassie as can be, with her performance providing us more information about Cassie’s past. All the men who perform in this film do an incredible job, their performances providing the commentary and weight to Carey Mulligan’s character. Everyone in the film is amazing.
There are moments of predictability, especially because the film is so smart. You expect Cassie to take certain actions but overall, I don’t mind because the plot is so creative and imaginative otherwise. While most of the men are portrayed as toxic examples of rape culture, there are some examples of the opposite. But this movie is about women, finding a way to find justice in a world that forgives men for heinous acts. This is female action and revenge at it’s finest.
If you like movies where women are the leads, where the societal commentary is insightful, the writing is stunning, and the acting is adept, you will want to watch this as soon as you can. The movie is profoundly thrilling, the actions calculating, and every detail important to the plot. I loved every moment of the performances and there wasn’t a slow moment in the movie. Carey Mulligan is beyond brilliant and this is one film you will not want to miss.
Rating: 5 out of 5 Acts Of Revenge
Official Website: Promising Young Woman Movie | In Theaters Christmas Day | Focus Features
Promising Young Woman premieres in theaters on Christmas Day.