Promising Young Woman

Promising Young Woman ★★★★★

I'll admit I avoided this for awhile, thinking it was yet another rape revenge thriller. But as it garnered a number of Oscar nominations including Best Picture, Actress and Director, I decided to check it out. I had no idea it would be such a creative (and powerful) spin on the genre, and I was blown away. It's an effective indictment of rape culture that is at times amusing and then horrifying.

The mixture of bright candy colors, pop music, a slew of familiar actors, occasional rom-com moments are the outer layer that masks a core message about the dominance of male sexual privilege that remains in our culture and its traumatic effect on women. For me, it was the juxtaposition of these elements that made the film so effective. And that perfect surprise ending!

And damn, what a performance by Carey Mulligan. I've always admired her (most recently again in 2018's "Wildlife"). Yet in a role that is so different from the other dramatic parts she's played, she shows the right combination of steely determination and deep pain at the loss of her best friend who suicided after a gang rape in medical school.

The rest of the cast is solid, and an impressive debut by director Emerald Fennell, who actually has a quick and funny cameo early in the film (watch the credits). I'm surprised by some of the mixed reviews here and was curious whether some were by men who were troubled by the unflattering portrayal of the males in the film. But guys, this is very much entrenched in our dominant culture.  And for those who complained that Mulligan resorted to some of the same tactics, it should be noted that her intent (to me at least) was to have her victims feel the fear and panic that her friend had, not to directly harm them.  So kudos to Emerald Fennell and all involved.

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