How many times have you been out in a club or bar and seen a woman totally smashed and wondered why is she there? Who hurt her? Is she looking for a one night stand? Is this her daily routine? Cassie is struggling and her life is on permanent repeat. With her best friend dead, medical school a wash, working at a coffee shop and living with her parents , Cassie’s options in life, love and career are dim.
When the film opens, camera zooms in on a woman posed on a red vinyl sofa in a “Jesus on The Cross” broken doll position in a business suit and seemingly drunk leaves an uneasy washed over anticipation of what is about to go down. Will she make it home? Will she pass out? Will she go home with a random stranger? Jerry (Adam Brody), leads a group of men out on the prowl hanging out in bar, and being a complete gentleman, offers to get her home safely. Of course plans change mid ride-share when he convinces her to come back for a “nightcap.” Once inside, we realize that she is by no stretch of the imagination a lost lamb, but rather a hunter on the prowl. Poor Jerry has no idea the lesson he about to learn about taking advantage of drunk women. And that is just the opening sequence!!!
Directed and written by Emerald Fennell, this Promising Young Woman begs the question of when is going too far really considered crossing the line? Revenge is dish best served female from Carey Mulligan with all the absurd craziness, gusto and cool calculated energy required to make Cassie pop off the screen. She literally adopts a different look for each target including her K-pop nurse complete with a rainbow crimp hair styled wig. Mulligan sheds yet another chameleon skin for the silver screen and fires on all cylinders! Bo Burnham (Ryan) is equally as impressive as the guy who almost makes her turn over a new leaf only to discover that he is just like the rest. A man that thinks with his other head instead of the one attached to his neck.
Cinematographer Benjamin Kracun infuses bright, luminous colors in direct conflict to the on-screen action coupled with wide off centered shots and shot with no heads of Madison (Allison Brie) and Cassie feeding into the off-centered emotions fueled by Fennell’s screenplay. Coupled with a hot soundtrack including classics like “It’s Raining Men” makes the whole experience really kitchy fun as music shifts from ominous to pop culture. The whole film takes me back to an old made-for-television movie that starred Stockard Channing – “The Girl Most Likely To…” Channing portrayed an ugly duckling who became a swan and bumped off every single dude who clowned her before the astounding metamorphosis.
There are numerous moments I absolutely lived for, but that road rage tire iron moment is the best. Anyone who has ever lived through gridlock or stuck behind someone oblivious to others on the road will totally get my meaning. Yet, the most telling moment is Cassie standing in front of a trash heap while adhering to insults being hurled from construction workers on the opposite side of the street as red jelly streams down her arm. It is an image that perfectly sums up the experience of screening Promising Young Woman. Many woman are reduced to trash not only based on conduct, but our clothing, hair and makeup choices. Cassie was a pre-med student, consumed with guilt and grief who adopted revenge as a release. Should she have been judged for any of that? Her bright future was derailed by one incident on one night. A night that not only affected her mental stability, but her ability to maintain relationships with her parents, co-workers, men or anyone else. Some folks bounce back from tragedy and while others are stuck in that one moment in time. Produced by Focus Features, Promising Young Woman hits screens on Christmas Day.