TRASH IN MY EYE No. 29 of 2021 (No. 1767) by Leroy Douresseaux
[This review was originally posted on Patreon.]
Promising Young Woman (2020)
Running time: 113 minutes (1 hour, 53 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong violence including sexual assault, language throughout, some sexual material and drug use
WRITER/DIRECTOR: Emerald Fennell
PRODUCERS: Tom Ackerley, Ben Browning, Emerald Fennell, Ashley Fox, Josey McNamara, and Margot Robbie
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Benjamin Cracun (D.o.P.)
EDITOR: Frederic Thoraval
COMPOSER: Anthony Willis
Academy Award winner
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, Clancy Brown, Jennifer Coolidge, Laverne Cox, Chris Lowell, Connie Britton, Adam Brody, Max Greenfield, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Sam Richardson, Alfred Molina, and Molly Shannon
Promising Young Woman is a 2020 black comedy and suspense thriller film from director Emerald Fennell. The film focuses on a young woman who takes revenge for a traumatic event in her past on the unwary young men who cross her path.
Promising Young Woman introduces Cassandra “Cassie” Thomas (Carey Mulligan), a 30 year-old medical school dropout who lives with her parents, Susan (Jennifer Coolidge) and Stanley Thomas (Clancy Brown), in Ohio. Seven years earlier, something terrible happened to Cassie's best friend, Nina Fisher, at a party, and it led to both Cassie and Nina leaving the medical school they attended, Forrest University.
Now, Cassie spends her nights feigning drunkenness in clubs, and allowing men to take her to their homes. Then, she bluntly and forcefully reveals her sobriety when these men try to take advantage of her by having sexual relations with a woman who is too inebriated to give consent. Things begin to change when Cassie is reunited with a former classmate, Dr. Ryan Cooper (Bo Burnham), a pediatrician. When another classmate reveals a lurid secret, Cassie resumes her mission of revenge, but can she survive her own mission.
Of the many shocking things about Promising Young Woman, one of them is actress Carey Mulligan. She completely buries herself in this role, and the waif-like persona she adopted in some of her early films disappears in the storm of the force of nature that is Cassie. Mulligan's performance as Cassie recalls classic Clint Eastwood movie characters like “Dirty” Harry Callahan and “Preacher” (from 1985's Pale Rider). I also have to give a shout out to Promising Young Woman's makeup department for its work in creating Cassie's look, which, spiritually, recalls the those vengeful dead girls in such Japanese horror films as Ringu (1998) and Ju-On: The Grudge (2002).
I can't help but be impressed by the debut directorial effort of writer-director Emerald Fennell. Her film is straight to the point. Fennell is not being allegorical, metaphorical, or symbolic. Fennell delivers stunning entertainment that is both a timely message movie and a timeless cinematic film, a mainstream spin of the spirit of The Last House on the Left (1972) and I Spit on Your Grave (1978). She may or may not be talking to you, sir, but there is no doubt about what Fennell is saying.
In a way, Promising Young Woman is the Get Out of 2020. Like Jordan Peele's Oscar-winning film, Promising Young Woman is a game changer. Whereas Peele's Get Out was a revelation in its message about white people's violence against African-American bodies, Fennell's Promising Young Woman is the clarion call to the reckoning for the way men objectify and enact sexual violence on the bodies of women. Hopefully, Fennell's film is the cinematic earthquake that leads to a Hollywood tsunami.
And yes, Promising Young Woman is entertaining. It simply manages to also blow your mind, chill your blood … and make some men reflexively cover their jewels.
9 of 10
Monday, March 22, 2021
2021 Academy Awards, USA: 1 win: “Best Original Screenplay” (Emerald Fennell); 4 nominations: “Best Motion Picture of the Year” (Ben Browning, Ashley Fox, Emerald Fennell, and Josey McNamara), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role” (Carey Mulligan), “Best Achievement in Directing” (Emerald Fennell), and “Best Achievement in Film Editing” (Frédéric Thoraval)
2021 Golden Globes, USA: 4 nominations: “Best Screenplay - Motion Picture” (Emerald Fennell), “Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama” (Carey Mulligan), “Best Director - Motion Picture” (Emerald Fennell), “Best Motion Picture - Drama”
2021 BAFTA Awards: 2 wins: “Best Screenplay-Original” (Emerald Fennell) and “Outstanding British Film of the Year” (Emerald Fennell, Ben Browning, Ashley Fox, and Josey McNamara); 4 nominations: “Best Film” (Ben Browning, Emerald Fennell, Ashley Fox, and Josey McNamara), “Best Editing” (Frédéric Thoraval), “Original Score” (Anthony Willis), and “Best Casting” (Lindsay Graham and Mary Vernieu)
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