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PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN gets 9.5/10 Scintillatingly dark


Directed by Emerald Fennell
Starring Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, Clancy Brown, Jennifer Coolidge, Laverne Cox, Connie Britton

9.5/10

Promising Young Woman is the current highlight for 2021. This directorial debut for Emerald Fennell is a shining example of what is yet to come from the filmmaker. Pitched to LuckyChap Entertainment in 2017 (Margot Robbie’s production company), it was soon purchased and went into production and development soon after. The story follows Cassie Thomas (Carey Mulligan) who works at a coffee shop, and lives with her parents, after dropping out of medical school after her childhood friend is raped (and discredited). Every weekend thereafter, she pretends to be extremely intoxicated, to ensnare “nice guys” who lure her back to theirs, to take advantage – only to become sober, and deliver some justice.

The discovery that her childhood friend’s abusers are living the silver-spoon lifestyle, and getting married, triggers a complicated plot of revenge and vigilantism. Dark humour, and scintillating writing pepper this eclectic thriller throughout. A turn of events towards the end makes you question the story, until you’re sucker-punched by a plot device you didn’t know you needed, leaving the audience quivering with joy and vindication.

A game of visual chess that is all at once neon daydream, eighties sugar candy, and a dash of American Psycho to keep the taste buds tingling. Knowing Margot Robbie was a producer, it’s not hard to connect certain visual choices to the Emancipation of One Harley Quinn; the dark writing tones, and Paris Hilton soundtrack in the background – we aren’t mad about it.

Carey Mulligan’s performance stands out, bright and monolithic, backed by Machiavellian writing. As she works through her “dick-list,” her manipulation and trickery of the characters to admit their wrong-doing is truly exceptional, and a heart-stopping viewing experience.

The movie expertly weaves the tropes and triggers associated with a woman’s day to day, involving all the “nice guys” who erupt when they don’t get their way, “damaging a promising man’s career” when allegations are pitted against them – especially in wealthy white America – as well as shedding light on the ostracising of women who come out against their abusers. This is a film that not only champions women but reminds men to shape up, especially in a post-Weinstein world.

JOSHUA HALL HAINES

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