This particular movie being released on Christmas day is fascinating to me. It’s very dark and heavy, the main character so hellbent on revenge that it’s savage.
One doesn’t usually think Christmas cheer goes with such a theme. Let’s see how she does, shall we? I believe in the time of ‘Me Too,’ this movie will do rather well, honestly. We open on a group of men in a bar. They’re drinking, laughing, and ogling a young woman so drunk she’s about to pass out. Her skirt opens. They comment, enjoying the sight. They flirt with the idea of one of them taking advantage of her, practically daring one another. Playing Mr. Nice Guy is Jerry (Adam Brody). He goes to her and helps make sure that the beautiful young woman, Cassie Thomas, played frighteningly well by Carey Mulligan, is safe and sound. Then, something changes.
Cassie lives a quiet life with her parents, played by Clancy Brown and Jennifer Coolidge. They seem to indulge her for reasons that do not make sense for a woman of her age. That being the case, the justification for this becomes more evident as the movie continues forward. She is haunted by something in her past. Because of this, she’s unable to shed the skin of who she once was and can’t fully blossom into who she can become. While they were in college, her best friend Nina was horrifically attacked by several men. Though not murdered, she doesn’t survive it. Guilt consumes the best friend who wasn’t there.
Once a promising medical student, Cassie is now a barista in a coffee shop. She doesn’t have much in her life but does like to go out. Her parents hope she gets direction, and soon.
At the shop, she runs into an old friend from college, Ryan, played by ‘Eighth Grade’ writer and director Bo Burnham. This could be interesting. He shows interest; she warms to the idea of getting to know him better.
After, we see her go out again. She’s not with Ryan, though. This time, she is with young Neil (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who makes cocaine readily available to her… whether she wants it or not. She gets blown out of her mind…right? Like with Jerry, she’s safe, with a ‘nice guy’ who’ll take good care of her, right? She tests this theory by acting more blasted out of her mind than she truly is. The moment he presumes to have her where he wants her and is ready to take advantage of his coked-out victim, it is she who has him in the crosshairs. Cassie is suddenly coherent and starts speaking very clearly and not with a very kind tongue. Neil doesn’t know which way to run. The dialogue here sends a powerful message when you consider what has been going on with these men. She’s playing a bit of a game of ‘stalker becomes the prey.’ Neil whines that he’s not a predator. He’s a ‘nice guy.’ Hopefully, he’ll learn how to be one from this encounter.
Cassie sees Ryan again. He’s humorous, kindhearted and after talking to him for a while, she asks him questions about whether he remembers this person and that person. One name she’s particularly interested in knowing about is Al Monroe’s. Other names come out during her inquiry, too. She gets information on several people, particularly the individuals who told everyone that Nina was to blame for the tragedy.
The Dean of the school, Dean Walker, played by Connie Britton, was given Al Monroe’s name as the student responsible for what happened that night. At the time, Walker said she couldn’t ruin a young man’s life due to one inebriated woman’s accusations. It was a case of, ‘He Said, She Said,’ and that her hands were tied. Perhaps she needs to see why that excuse shouldn’t work.
As the story progresses, we learn more about what Cassie is doing. Several people address it, and the question you’ll have playing in your head is whether or not she’ll be able to move beyond it. Though they weren’t formally charged or saw the errors of their ways, Cassie still blames people for what happened to her friend and hurts deeply for not being there to help. What she needs is therapy. Will she get that help, or will she get her ultimate revenge?
There have been other films with this theme. ‘I Spit on Your Grave,’ and ‘Hard Candy’ to name a few, that created better storylines before and after the use of a few disquieting scenes that explain away the premise. Having said that, Mulligan is so strong and competent in her performance that you really shouldn’t miss it. She’s enraged and bitter, and you can feel those emotions through your screen. It’s heartbreaking.
The cinematography is gorgeous, and the entire cast is exceptional. This movie places you where you don’t want to be, but in the right way because it makes its audience very uncomfortable, as it should be with such subject matter. Rape should be distressing, but not so much so that it can’t be addressed and dealt with appropriately when it happens. Sadly, there are a lot more Nina’s out there than there should be.
Promising Young Woman
Director: Emerald Fennell
Writers: Emerald Fennell
Stars: Academy Award®-nominee Carey Mulligan and Bo Burnham with Laverne Cox, Alison Brie, Connie Britton, Jennifer Coolidge, Max Greenfield, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chris Lowell, Sam Richardson, Molly Shannon, and Clancy Brown.
Running Time: 1h 53m
Genres: Comedy, Crime, Drama