March 15, 2021
Street Date 3/16/21;
Crime, Drama, Thriller, Dark Comedy;
Box Office $5.5 million;
$29.98 DVD, $34.98 Blu-ray;
Rated ‘R’ for strong violence including sexual assault, language throughout, some sexual material and drug use.
Stars Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, Clancy Brown, Jennifer Coolidge, Laverne Cox, Connie Britton, Molly Shannon, Sam Richardson, Max Greenfield, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Adam Brody.
Striking right at the core of gender relations brought to the fore by the #MeToo movement, Promising Young Woman is a relentless revenge thriller that expertly walks a line between dark comedy, tragedy and drama led by a beautifully nuanced performance from Carey Mulligan, who just received a Best Actress Oscar nomination for it.
Emerald Fennell (who served as showrunner on “Killing Eve” and plays Camilla on “The Crown”) received three well-deserved Academy Award nominations for her directorial debut (Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay) for this story than broaches a wrenching subject while keeping the audience laughing and gasping on a roller coaster journey through one woman’s pathos and secret fury. (The film also received an Oscar nomination for Best Film Editing for a total of five noms.)
Promising Young Woman follows Cassie (Mulligan), a former medical student who was headed for success until a mysterious event abruptly derailed her future. By day a young woman going nowhere as a barista, by night Cassie lives a secret double life. An unexpected encounter with an old classmate gives her a chance to avenge the wrongs of the past.
At turns a horror story, a romantic comedy and a tragedy, the film plays with familiar tropes in the narrative and film history of male-female relations and power dynamics. With a hot score and vibrant, eye-popping art direction, set design, costumes and makeup, it’s a truly unique film that defies categorization. Dark comedy elements provide levity, but the film also takes a deep dive into the characters’ multiple facets. As noted in the bonus features, the film portrays men who think of themselves as “good guys,” while doing morally questionable, even horrible things. Then there’s Cassie, an engaging, attractive and smart avenging angel/devil who leaves emotional turmoil in her wake. This tension between the light and dark side of humanity allows the actors to explore a layer cake of emotions and elicits some truly great performances.
Bonus features include three featurettes: “A Promising Vision,” in which Fennell discusses her inspirations for creating the film; “Two-Sided Transformation,” a look at Mulligan in the role of Cassie and how filmmakers used wardrobe, hair and makeup to express the balance between light and dark; and “Balancing Act,” in which cast members discuss their unexpected reactions to the careful balance of levity and tragedy in Fennell’s take on female revenge.
There’s also a commentary with Fennell, who provides a detailed explanation of key elements in the film, including set design, framing, and makeup and costume choices. As do the best commentaries, Fennell’s leaves viewers with a greater appreciation for the artistry and thought process behind this complicated film and makes a second pass through Promising Young Woman with commentary well worth the time.