Director: Emerald Lilly Fennell
Writer: Emerald Lilly Fennell
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Alison Brie
Genre: Thriller | Comedy
Streaming on Amazon Prime Video. (USA)
It’s been a long time since a movie triggered something deeply unhinged in me, for me that’s what film does, it provokes feelings and emotions in a way that’s passive and you pretty much don’t have any control over it, “Promising Young Woman” does just that. Promising Young Woman is an exquisite yet troubling film, altogether knottier than its trailer would have you believe. Shot with playful precision, it is a pastel-pink Russian doll: a psychological drama inside a revenge fantasy inside a romcom.
Fennell, who wrote the screenplay, resists simply following the male blueprint for revenge fantasy. She knows that there are as many opportunistic beta males as there are apex predators, that female anger is not straightforward, and that the outlets for it are rarely cathartic. Beyond the candy-coated camp and retro-pop soundtrack, there is little that is glamorous about this film. Cassie is righteous but she is also pathetic, her anger described by Fennell as “like an ingrown toenail”.
Ambitious, though, the film certainly is. One critic notoriously suggested that “one can (perhaps too easily) imagine the role might once have been intended for Margot Robbie”. But it’s Mulligan who is Promising Young Woman’s centre of gravity, offsetting the film’s cartoonish chutzpah with a twitchy vulnerability, and picking away at the scabs of female trauma. Those looking for catharsis will not find it in Promising Young Woman. This is not a neutered version of what could have been, but a more complicated one. I always say that if a movie can stay in my head and consume my thoughts many days after watching it, it is something special. That last movie I ever felt so passionate about was a Drama/Mystery “Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close” (2011).
“Garish but Gratifying”
P.S High Anxiety content warning
The title is a reference to Brock Turner, a Stanford University student who was convicted of sexual assault in 2016. Despite his conviction, he was referred to by some as a “Promising Young Man.”
The very first scene writer Emerald Fennell thought of was a female character lying on a bed while someone takes her pants down, as she is drunkenly asking “What are you doing?”, then asking the same question in a completely sober manner. She wrote the rest of the film based on this idea, and the full scene did end up in the finished film.
- Upon scoring the lead role, Carey Mulligan was sent a playlist by director Emerald Fennell, that would set the mood for the film. ‘Toxic’ by Britney Spears featured twice. Fennell is a self-declared massive fan of Spears and considers the song to be one of the best of all time. At the same time, she wanted to rebel against a dismissive notion that female pop culture is “guilty pleasure,” and therefore made it an integral part of the audiovisual side of the film.
The words “rape” and “sexual assault” are not spoken in the film.
Took a total of 23 days to film.
Alfred Molina is not listed in the credits.
More amazing trivia at https://www.imdb.com/title/tt9620292/trivia?ref_=tt_ql_2