Promising Young Woman ★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

About two-thirds of the way into Promising Young Woman, Cassie (Carey Mulligan) discovers that Ryan (Bo Burnham), the guy she's been seeing, was involved in the incident—the rape of her best friend, Nina, in medical school—that led her to her guilt-ridden revenge spiral. Cassie's reversion back to her vengeful ways from her heretofore lovelorn highs happens at basically the flip of a switch; there's no trace of the genuine warmth she previously showed with Ryan when she confronts him in his office.

Perhaps a more psychologically attuned writer and a more imaginative actress might have made such a character turn feel plausibly human rather than merely schematic. Instead, the moment crystallized for me the reason why I can't really get all that excited about Mulligan's much-lauded performance in this: Cassie is less a character than an emblem on which writer/director Emerald Fennell wants to hang all her #MeToo furies, and Mulligan is simply content to play her as written.

Also, in a world where Abel Ferrara's unapologetically grimy—but also much more nuanced—Ms. 45 exists, the relatively anodyne provocations of Promising Young Woman just don't measure up.

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