Director(s): Emerald Fennell
Writer(s): Emerald Fennell
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham
Synopsis: A young woman, traumatized by a tragic event in her past, seeks out vengeance against those who cross her path.
One of the wonderful things about film is the ability to deliver a strong and impactful message that the viewer will be able to take home with them. A lot of the time this is done in subtle ways to cause the viewer to not even think about the message until the story unravels itself revealing the breadcrumbs the director set before them. These movies can greatly impact the viewer through the nuance that shows how powerful film really is on society.
Promising Young Woman is not that type of film. No, not one bit. This is not negative though, as instead of providing a nuanced take into rape culture, this movie decides to tackle it head-on with enough aggressive gravitas to cut through to the viewer. To make them understand the significance and weight of the situation and the societal issues that some people have to face all the time. But this film wasn’t attacked with any sort of anger towards the subject, but with a sense of grace
Carey Mulligan absolutely blew me away in this role. She had this powering screen presence that I haven’t seen from anyone else this year. She is a dominant figure every time she is on screen, which is most of the film, and always remains in control no matter the situation. Which that is what was so incredible for me to see, was her dazzling way to flip a switch in any given moment. There was life in Cassandra, even if just a little, but the way she could go from a victim to the one being in control was highly impressive. And of course, you can attest a lot of that to the writing of the film, but Carey takes it to another level in this. There wasn’t a moment in this film where I didn’t feel she was in control of the entire situation, but at the same time I never knew where this film would go.
Her performance reminded me a lot of Adam Sandler from last year’s Uncut Gems but in the completely opposite way. In Uncut Gems, Howard was never in control but always played himself off to be. He had to prove to everyone else he was in the driver’s seat for every situation even though he, and the audience, knew he never was. Here, Mulligan has to prove to everyone she isn’t in control of what is happening until she flips that switch and shows that she always had the power. When both of these actors regain control of their situations they become like a firecracker on the screen and you can’t pinpoint where they will ultimately go. It isn’t a super layered or overtly emotional performance, it is just powerful acting and some that I would love to see more from. The ability to keep the audience on their toes and guessing throughout the entire movie.
The absolute artistry that Emerald Fennell was able to bring to the film showed me just how great of a director she is. Just as the film itself was very loud about the subject, the style was right there with it as Fennell was able to provide an array of colors and symbols that really brought the audience more into the film. This is a movie that I could have seen studying in Film Class, and that is one of the best stylistic and artistic compliments that I could have given.
Truthfully, everything about this movie stood out in such a loud and meaningful way. The “twist” might have been a little obvious, and some of the scenarios might have been a little too outrageous, but that truthfully is just me nitpicking the small things. In all honesty, this movie is a highly important one, and one that we need to remember and watch for years to come. It is one that I personally will want to revisit time after time in order to pick up on something new and fresh from the film.
Final: Promising Young Woman is an important piece of art from Emerald Fennell. Carey Mulligan gives one of the years best performances in a movie that needs to be talked about for years to come.
Current Tomato Score: 90%
Current Metacritic: 74
Awards Prospects: Actress, Original Screenplay
Jacob is a film critic and co-founder of the Music City Drive-In. He is a member of the Music City Film Critics’ Association and specializes in the awards season. You can find him on Twitter @Tberry57.