Promising Young Woman is a film that’ll leave you shaken. And it will take some time for the mixed emotions it triggers to settle back down.
It’s a story about a young woman, Cassie (played by Carey Mulligan) who ventures to bars and nightclubs regularly, pretending she is drunk, only to pick up men, go home with them, then teach them a hard lesson in feminism and manners.
For the most part of the first act of the movie, I was left jaw-dropped, wondering why in the hell this woman would want to put herself at risk, being alone with a different horny, drugged-up dude almost every night?
But Cassie has a mission that not even the toughest BFF could deter. A former medical student, her life has been derailed by the rape of her best friend, Nina, who is left damaged. After dropping out of college to take care of a broken Nina (who we never actually see in the movie), Cassie is angry and out for major revenge.
There are repeat moments when Mulligan’s lead character switches from playing a mumbling drunk (to get her prey to take advantage of her) to being absolutely articulate and scaringly forthright. In these moments, the viewer is brought to the edge of his or her seat; hoping, praying, barracking that this isn’t the one time the brute turns on our brazen heroine.
It’s no surprise there are visual references in the film that allude to Stanley Kubrick’s Lolita (representing the passive act Cassie has to play to attract sexist men) to Thelma & Louise (her true, ballsy side).
Where I felt shocked for much of the movie – mainly at the sexist behaviour some of the male characters (these being a reflection of the patriarchy up until the TimesUp movement), I got much joy out of the second act, when Cassie gets to meet a nice guy and even contemplates an end to her vengeful acting up.
The cast of Promising Young Woman is rounded out nicely with Cassie’s parents played by Jennifer Coolidge and Clancy Brown; her workmate Gail played by the wonderful Laverne Cox; and her sweet potential boyfriend Bo Burnham.
Many of the ensemble cast are used to appearing in comedy movies and each brings a certain humour to their role, which is much needed in an otherwise noiresque film, almost making it a dark comedy.
As sad as the end of this film is (though I won’t give the actual ending away), there is a nice twist that’ll leave you caught between tears of pain and tears of joy.
No movie in recent years has played with my emotions as much as Promising Young Woman has. And that power to effect a viewer and leave them thinking seriously is what makes this an important film.
‘Promising Young Woman’ is in cinemas now.