Promising Young Woman

Promising Young Woman ★★★★

I'd been putting off seeing this because I didn't want to sit in a theater wearing a mask, but the anticipation became too great. It isn't giving too much away to say that Cassie (Carey Mulligan) is a woman who hangs out in nightclubs pretending to be drunk. Her goal is to trick male predators into taking her home for a one-night-stand. Unlike American Mary, she doesn't torture them. She merely teaches them a lesson and then adds their names to her notebook and tallies them off. There are pages and pages of tallies. Why does she do this? Was she raped in the past, and this is her revenge? Not exactly. But her best friend was, and that friend is now dead, so these late-night adventures are all done in that memory.

Carey Mulligan's performance is one of the best of 2020, truly broad in its emotional range, accented by the various hairstyles she wears during the film. Bo Burnham, who wrote and directed Eighth Grade, gives the other excellent performance as a pediatrician who did graduate from med school, while Cassie did not. Their chemistry is very strong, particularly in the drugstore music video scene. Their romance lightens the tone of the film considerably, which it needed by that point.

The multi-talented Emerald Fennell, who is already a semi-established writer/actress, makes her feature directorial debut with this film and immediately makes a statement. The point is made repeatedly, which may or may not be the film's biggest flaw, along with a dramatic ending highlighted by Juice Newton's "Angel of the Morning." But I'm a sucker for that song, and I believe it gives the film more impact than it would have had otherwise. Still, audiences will be split on how well the twist works, and whether the twist is truly a surprise to the viewer or not. Promising Young Woman is never boring, and the two central performances are what makes it so riveting and worthy of a recommendation.

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