Promising Young Woman

Promising Young Woman ★★

Deeply cynical, corny and extremely self-satisfied. Bad combo, but not too unexpected once you're notified this is from the showrunner who managed the decline of KILLING EVE s2 (I wonder why they don't put that on the poster, hm). Not quite as bad as I'm about to make it sound, but this is basically THE LOVE WITCH for people who think Paul Feig is a capable director. The score is massively over-bearing, never trusting the actors once to sell the rarely complex emotions, and the soundtrack genuinely at times seemed like it was placed into my screener by someone attempting to avoid a DMCA takedown (two people? in love? singing along to all the words of.....a Paris Hilton song? In 2020? what is happening?). The performances are universally Valentine's Day release date-ready schlock but somehow all from separate genre films, ranging from Laverne Cox (who thinks she's in a romcom & enjoying it just the right amount) to Max Greenfield (who thinks he's the uptight douchebag villain in a 2000s Will Ferrell comedy & enjoying it way too much). Mulligan is capably nihilistic but this isn't really the Joker movie the trailer sells itself to be - if a Joker movie ended like this, men would riot, because these kinds of endings don't happen with power fantasy male characters for a reason (but they do happen to female leads with some regularity, for a reason). The core journey is actually something much sadder and more self-defeating than PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN ever seems to realize because it's more concerned with pulling the rug on the audience rather than offering a legible character arc built with empathy for anyone at all in mind. Kirsten Dunst could have managed a less over-bearing enterprise, but she's made a better version of that in one way or another before, too. This either needed to be pumped up and campier (and risk being silly on purpose, heaven forbid) or withdrawn & prestige film-oriented (which is really just UNDER THE SKIN, isn't it). Stuck in a middle ground where every flailing man-baby performance is taken at face value, the justice system is aggressively inept (until it's not, only when it's most convenient for the plot) and a woman putting herself in physical danger regularly faces no consequences for much of the runtime, fundamentally denying a very palpable slice of reality until it's ready to pull the only trick it's had up its sleeve this whole time. The kind of movie that pats you on the back for buying a ticket and hopes you don't notice it's sold your own morals right back to you & little else.

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