Promising Young Woman
I admit to being flummoxed as to why this film has been nominated for Best Picture and Carey Mulligan as Best Actress in the 2021 Oscars. And it’s got three more nods in addition…screenplay, film editing and best director: Emerald Fennell is better known as being Camilla in The Crown and a showrunner in Killing Eve. I wonder if the starshine of Fennell’s two previous turns have rubbed off on her reputation?
At the obvious level it’s a protest film about how men, especially ‘promising young men’, get away with violence against women. Cassie and her friend Nina were the corresponding promising young women whose studies are abruptly ended by Nina’s gang rape and her eventual suicide. Cassie is determined to be an avenging angel – rather clumsy imagery reinforces this in various shots with wings sprouting out behind her against heavenly-coloured pastel backdrops (best director, really?). Her ploy is to appear out-of-control drunk and be rescued by some kind-hearted guy (or one simply keen to take advantage), only for him to get a nasty shock. These encounters are all tallied in a journal, the meaning of which is never quite clear – mirroring the unseen punishments.
Scarred by her experiences and living at home with her over-protective parents, working in a coffee shop, she finally meets a nice guy and all seems to be going well…except for some of the debts remain unsettled. And that’s where it gets surreal. Some critics seem to think this a deeply meaningful movie about misogyny – but it’s equally tough on co-dependent women in a man’s world, and Cassie takes no prisoners there either. So the big feminist tick is misplaced – perhaps it’s the box that’s says girl power. The screenplay is OK (some funny lines), as is the direction, the musical direction/soundtrack is fun and Mulligan is always a pleasure to watch, though she seems far too old for her beau Ryan, Bo Burnham. An amusing film noir lockdown watch but not a major Oscar Winner IMO.