Lenny’s review published on Letterboxd:
"Not all men" - This exact riposte to accusations of sexism, sexual abuse and rape immediately popped into my head when I saw this film. It may well be that not all men in this world are like that. But that is not the point at all. How misplaced and pointless this phrase actually is is shown by the fact that it downplays real incidents.
Promising Young Woman now feels to me like a direct answer to this "Not all men".
Without ever really visualizing it or even talking about it directly, director and screenwriter Emerald Fennell tells us about the subject of rape. However, this is not about the act itself, but about the consequences and how to deal with them. Actually, it's more about how society deals with it and also how the perpetrators deal with it. There is hardly anything worse than a rape not brought to justice and not being punished. And if people do not believe the victim, if you are laughed at and if perpetrators can simply go on living their lives without a care in the world, the helplessness is immense.
That's where Promising Young Woman intervenes and tells a story about injustice, a kind of revenge and vigilante justice. The character Cassie is the one who exposes herself to it all. As a woman, she often pretends to be absolutely drunk in clubs. Most of the time, some guy take her home and take advantage of her supposed drunkenness to have their hook up with her. But the fact is that Cassie is not actually drunk and so she teaches these guys a lesson.
And here everyone realizes immediately: Even the supposedly nice guys can be capable of something like this.
It's just something that I as a male viewer, as well as all other male viewers can not even begin to evaluate: Being frequently sexually harassed as a woman on the street, walking alone through a city at night, or having to feel incredibly uncomfortable around a group of men. And even if I don't have these serious problems, the film at least manages to provide some insight into them. It succeeds by presenting really disgusting actions of men and also by throwing everyday things and phrases at your head.
Likewise, the casting of the characters has been chosen extremely interestingly for this. That is particularly noticeable with the male actors. Many of them have been cast exactly against their type. Actors who are usually known as the funny and good guys are the real offenders here. So there's this feeling that you can be wrong about really anyone, no matter how nice they seem to be.
When it comes to the cinematic level of Promising Young Woman, I would probably give it five stars without hesitation. The dynamic soundtrack, the image design with the seemingly innocent pastel colors and the narrative structure, as well as the terrific acting (looking at you Carey Mulligan) make this film an absolutely impressive, gripping and also entertaining viewing experience.
Hard to believe, but you have to laugh very often in this film with an actually serious and grave subject matter. For me personally, this mix works very well and gives the character of Carey Mulligan another perspective.
However, the film is ultimately more than just that. It obviously opens up a discourse that is worth having. There are many different and also critical opinions about this film. For example, from victims and those affected. I don't have this perspective and therefore my opinion is not decisive in this respect. Nevertheless, I think that Promising Young Woman is definitely an eye-opener and at shows the absurdity and senselessness behind "Not All Men".