‘Promising Young Woman’ Review: Courting Dangerous Liaisons
Promising Young Woman is a candy with a sour center that turns sociopathy into style and trauma into joke. Cassandra (Carey Mulligan), 30, a high school dropout who still lives with her worried parents (Jennifer Coolidge and Clancy Brown), embodies both. She is a weekday barista and a weekend hunter. Their prey is two-legged but single-minded: men who equate a woman’s drunkenness with consent.
A film about the long tail of sexual assault (it would be unfair to go into that). This first Emerald Fennell feature opens in a club. The camera pans over the doughy sub-regions of circling business people before landing on Cassandra. She lolls in a booth, smeared and apparently wasted, and a pleasure a man (played by Adam Brody) cannot resist. He gallantly offers to take her home and makes a gentle detour to his apartment. When Cassandra reveals her cold sobriety, he has already taken off her underwear and moved in for the score.
The next shot shows her walking home barefoot and happily chewing a hot dog while a cover of “It’s Raining Men” fills the soundtrack. There are red splatters on her arm – blood or ketchup? Later she recorded the encounter in a fat notebook with red and black numbers. What the colors represent, like too many aspects of the wildly improbable plot, is unexplained. Instead, we follow Cassandra as she continues her dangerous crawl patrol, seemingly armed with nothing more deadly than a waving finger and a withering look.
“Promising Young Woman”, a mixed up mixture of black comedy, revenge thriller and feminist lecture, too often gives way to its possibly scorching structure. With a script by Fennell too, the film is unwilling to impose its own outrage. Popping colors and a hyper-feminized design illuminate scenes of strangely static craftsmanship, the nonsense of Cassandra’s year-long crusade – how many predator hangouts can there be in your suburb? – undermine the moral weight of its problems.
The introduction of Ryan (Bo Burnham), a former classmate who became a pediatric surgeon, puts the film in an area of romantic comedy and Cassandra in a brief flirtation with normalcy. But when Ryan reveals new information about old acquaintances, her stalking-and-shaming routine expands to include the women who downplayed the long-ago crime. But like Cassandra’s life, the film feels shapeless and nowhere near as nervous as he thinks: an expanded gimmick that doesn’t fill too many gaps.
Buried under curly blonde hair and German Shepherd bangs, Mulligan adds depth and sensitivity to a character little more than a vengeful doll. The support of Laverne Cox as Cassandra’s sardonic boss and Alison Brie as a former school friend adds snapshot and texture to a film too cautious to sell the damage at its core. To bring the mission home, “Promising Young Woman” needs at least one scene in which a man responds credibly to Cassandra’s trick: Not all aspiring perpetrators apologize when they are turned down. And while the red annotations in their logbook could indicate violent results, the allusion is too vague to register.
However, there is nothing hesitant about the end of the film – or, more precisely, its penultimate scene. In the context of a male comeuppance story, it could seem disastrous; For me, however, it was the most authentic moment in the film and the strongest indicator of Fennell’s talent for grappling with a character’s darkest desires. “Promising Young Woman” is less a fantasy of revenge than a sad tale of distorted grief and blazing anger: Cassandra may despise her wretched victims, but she detests herself most of all.
Promising young woman
Rated R for terrible behavior and poor language. Running time: 1 hour 53 minutes. In theaters. Please read the Policies of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching films in theaters.