Movie review: Promising Young Woman

director/writer Emerald Fennell

Promising Young WomanPromising Young Woman is a movie I was wary of watching. But from the beginning, it rang with a level of truth. Three guys are at a bar complaining about women in the workplace. This conversation I’ve heard about quite a bit.

Cassie (Carey Mulligan) is the title character. She has a dead-end day job at a coffee shop run by one of her few friends, Gail (Laverne Cox). At night, she hangs out at bars with a surprising plan. She has a stare that will shut up construction workers.

It takes a while for the audience to understand why this clearly intelligent and clever woman, turning 30, is still living at home with her parents, Stanley (Clancy Brown) and Susan (Jennifer Coolidge).

Then she meets Ryan (Bo Burnham), a charming former classmate with seemingly endless patience. They seem to have a real connection as they dance through the pharmacy.

Still, there are wrongs to be righted, including the big one. The movie also stars Alison Brie, Alfred Molina, Connie Britton, and Chris Lowell.

Er, ah…

I have no idea how to write more about this without massive spoilers. This I’ll say: for something described to me as a rape-revenge fantasy, I thought it was surprisingly sweet and funny in parts. The music is important to the storyline. It certainly uniquely addressed #MeToo.

And I loved the ending, even if it was too tidy. In a couple of big-time spoiler articles, NPR hated the ending but Vox loved it.

The movie title, BTW, was a reference to Brock Turner. The Stanford swimmer received a six-month sentence for rape, serving half of it because he was, in the words of the judge, a “promising young man.”

This is the debut feature film for director/writer Emerald Fennell, and she was nominated for an Oscar in both categories. She’s written for the TV series Killing Eve and has acting credits, including playing Camilla Parker Bowles in The Crown. She also has an uncredited cameo in Promising Young Woman as a how-to video guru.

This is a polarizing film. I’m sure there will be people who will hate it. 91% of the critics in Rotten Tomatoes were positive. The negative reviews used words like “stylised to the point of styrofoam flatness” (stylized, yes); and a “polemic” (probably). Even those hating the film often praised Carey Mulligan.

I rented the film on Amazon Prime.

The less-than-satisfactory Oscar post

I saw all the Best Supporting Actor and Original Screenplay noms!

EmmaYeah, it’s been a less-than-satisfactory Oscar viewing season for me. I haven’t seen many of the nominees, certainly in comparison with most years. Although, seeing THREE Best Picture nominees in the last three days, which I haven’t yet reviewed, has made the list a bit more complete.

So this is a post for this moment, and I’m hoping to see the others eventually. The ! means I saw it. I’ll link to my reviews the first time.

BEST PICTURE
! The Father – I just saw this; well-acted, of course, depressing and a little stagey
! Judas and the Black Messiah – I saw this yesterday; the best in my opinion.
Mank – this played at the newly-reopened Spectrum Theatre, but I didn’t catch it.
! Minari 
! Nomadland. I’m aware of the controversy over how the movie doesn’t fully address the working conditions at Amazon, which the book apparently does.
! Promising Young Woman – I just saw, and I liked it a lot
! Sound of Metal – this is the movie I saw the earliest of the nominees, the only one before the noms were announced. It’s very good.
! The Trial of the Chicago Seven. Good film.

ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE
! Maria Bakalova, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm 
Glenn Close, Hillbilly Elegy – she’s overdue, but this movie reviewed terribly
! Olivia Colman, The Father. She’s very strong in a demanding role.
Amanda Seyfried, Mank
! Youn Yuh-Jung, Minari – my favorite

ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE – all great performances
But it is absurd that the two leads of Judas are both up for best supporting. I blame the studio.
! Sacha Baron Cohen, The Trial of the Chicago 7
! Daniel Kaluuya, Judas and the Black Messiah
! Leslie Odom Jr., One Night in Miami
! Paul Raci, Sound of Metal – probably my #2 pick
! Lakeith Stanfield, Judas and the Black Messiah, narrowly my #1 pick

INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM
Another Round – Denmark. A good film but this is the only one I saw in the category.
Better Days – Hong Kong
Collective – Romania
The Man Who Sold His Skin – Tunisia
Qu Vadis, Aida? – Bosnia and Herzegovina

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Collective
Crip Camp
The Mole Agent
My Octopus Teacher
! Time 

ORIGINAL SONG
! Fight For You from Judas and the Black Messiah
! Hear My Voice from The Trial of the Chicago 7
Husavik from Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga
lo Sì (Seen) from The Life Ahead (La Vita Davanti a Se)
! Speak Now from One Night in Miami – my rooting interest

Screenplays and other things

ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
Onward
Over the Moon
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon
Soul
! Wolfwalkers 

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
! Borat Subsequent MovieFilm
! The Father
! Nomadland
! One Night in Miami – my favorite of the four
The White Tiger – there’s a 2021 movie called White Tiger about a tank. That isn’t this movie.

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
! Judas and the Black Messiah – my #1 pick
! Minari
! Promising Young Woman – my #2 pick
! Sound of Metal
! The Trial of the Chicago 7

ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE
! Riz Ahmed, Sound of Metal – excellent
Chadwick Boseman, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – like a lot of others, I’d be thrilled if he wins posthumously
! Anthony Hopkins, The Father – great, as usual
Gary Oldman, Mank
! Steven Yeun, Minari

ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE
Viola Davis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – I always root for her
! Andra Day, The United States vs. Billie Holiday – she is WAY better than the movie; review soon
Vanessa Kirby, Pieces of a Woman
! Frances McDormand, Nomadland
! Carey Mulligan, Promising Young Woman – possibly my favorite

DIRECTOR
! Thomas Vinterberg, Another Round
David Fincher, Mank
! Lee Isaac Chung, Minari
! Chloe Zhao, Nomadland
! Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman. My pick.

The techie awards

PRODUCTION DESIGN
! The Father
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Mank
News of the World
Tenet

CINEMATOGRAPHY
! Sean Bobbitt, Judas and the Black Messiah
Erik Messerschmidt, Mank
Dariusz Wolski, News of the World
! Joshua James Richards, Nomadland – I can imagine this winning
! Phedon Papamichael, The Trial of the Chicago 7

COSTUME DESIGN
! Emma – hmm. I bought this DVD for my wife and we watched it some months ago, but I never reviewed it. It was pleasant enough, not great. But the costumes WERE fabulous.
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Mank
Mulan
Pinocchio

ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND
Greyhound
Mank
News of the World
Soul
! Sound of Metal – the sound, and lack of, is pivotal here, and very effective

ORIGINAL SCORE
Da 5 Bloods
Mank
! Minari
News of the World
Soul

VISUAL EFFECTS – I’ve seen none
Love and Monsters
The Midnight Sky
Mulan
The One and Only Ivan
Tenet

FILM EDITING
! The Father
! Nomadland – will probably win
! Promising Young Woman
! Sound of Metal – rooting interest
! The Trial of the Chicago 7 – secondary rooting interest

MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
! Emma
Hillbilly Elegy
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Mank
Pinocchio