Promising Young Woman (2020)

A boldly-stylized, candy-coated, delicious new flavor of revenge-thriller with ’80’s sex-appeal/edge & palpable relevance for #MeToo era, PYW flips predator-prey dynamics w. black comedic moxie & career-performance by Carey Mulligan. 8.5/10.

Plot Synopsis: Nothing in Cassie’s life is what it appears to be — she’s wickedly smart, tantalizingly cunning, and she’s living a secret double life by night. Now, an unexpected encounter is about to give Cassie a chance to right the wrongs from the past.

*Possible Spoilers Ahead*

Official CLC Review

The ~Forgotten Actress Of Hollywood

Praised By CLC For Her Magnificent Roles In Drive, The Great Gatsby, & Wildlife, C.M. Bizarrely-Faded To Anonymity – Like The ‘Toxic’ Theme PYW Remix, ‘[Carey’s] Back’

Photograph Courtesy Of: Universal Studios

Leonaro DiCaprio. Tobey Maguire. Isla Fisher. Joel Edgerton. Elizabeth Debicki. Robert Redford. Amitabh Bachchan. JAY-Z/Beyoncé. Boldly-revisualizing quite possibly the Greatest American Novel ever-written, Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 ‘The Great Gatsby’ was like nothing I had ever – and have ever since – seen; it was an ocular-masterpiece of the operatic/theatrical spectacle his signature visual style promises, fueled just as much thematically and performance-wise by a classic deconstruction-of-wealth tale and magnificent pedigree of cast. One of the standouts [as we credited in our lengthy exposè – one of CLC’s favorite romance films and cinematography canvases] was Carey Mulligan: a delicate, soft, flowery, layered Daisy Buchanan & capable love-stricken counterbalance to DiCaprio’s steely intensity as the forlorn Gatsby. By all pH-indicators, her career should’ve skyrocketed like each of the other titanic names at the start of this list. Bizarrely and inexplicably though, that didn’t happen for Mulligan – only being in 3-4 films [and none of them public-interest] total in the 8+ years since F. Scott Fitzgerald’s epic. Like the ‘Toxic’ theme PYW remixes with violin-orchestrated edge, Carey’s back like Britney – far from the saccharine, prim-and-proper Daisy Buchanan we remember; a rage-fueled vigilante on a skull-cracking revenge-mission straight out of the latest Batman or Punisher comic book, but mired in realistic experience. A boldly-stylized, candy-coated, delicious new flavor of revenge-thriller with ’80’s sex-appeal/edge & palpable relevance for #MeToo era, PYW flips predator-prey dynamics with black-comedic moxie [alongside romance & slasher/psych-horror undertones] for a dazzling first-feature by E. Fennell & career-performance by Carey Mulligan.

The ’80’s Sex-Appeal & A/V Drug-Dose

From The Opening Body-Gyrations At The Club To 808 & Synthy Pop-Electronica, A Score & Cinematography Canvas Of Chemical Overdrive To Get Lovedrunk On

Photograph Courtesy Of: Universal Studios

From its opening flickers, PYW wears its sex-appeal and ’80’s heart on its sleeve. The film tackles #MeToo from a different angle – instead of shying away from the chemical/hormonal mixes that lead boy-girl duos to the breaking point, Promising Young Woman embraces them throughout its A/V canvas. The cinematography is full of sex-crazed, provocative shots and ideas – everything from juices suggestively dripping down a buttoned-down blouse to pan-ups accentuating the curves of a woman’s body to extreme close-ups of nether-regions as bodies-without-faces gyrate to the 808’s and heart-thumping basslines of a night in the club we begin the story in. The color-bursting auras and hallucinogenic FX disorientate us like we’ve been slipped something while ocularly-highlighting the body-centrality of partying in every activity: booze, smoking, kissing, dancing, etc. The stylistic brilliance of its youth-energized visual canvas bleeding teen spirit and modernistic flair with ’80’s corporeal bases is paralleled by PYW’s score & soundtrack. The song-choices emphasize synthy pop/electronica, reverberating the club-vibes of its [shockingly-light & glamorized] visual canvas while also managing to somehow impressively all be thematically-resonant by their lyrics. The canvas shifts from lovedrunk boy-crazy songs like Charli XCX’s future bass ‘Boys’ and Deathbyromy’s ’80’s power-ballad ‘Raining Men (Hallelujah)’ to darker tones in Muna’s ‘Nihilist’ and Carmen DeLeon’s ‘He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss)’ to cheeseball lovey-dovey songs like ‘Stars Are Blind’ by Paris Hilton to an orchestral remix version of Britney Spears’ iconic ‘Toxic’ in bone-chillingly ominous foreshadowing violins – all thematized flawlessly to its major acts.

A Lone Doe Amongst Wolves

A Blackout, Lone Young Woman At The Club Seems Easy Prey For Voracous Lions Circling – & A ‘Nice Guy’ Offers To Take Her Home

Photograph Courtesy Of: Universal Studios

The plush, swanky leather-seated club finds our protagonist blackout-drunk and alone on its corner as the film’s events begin. The physicality and speech-slurs of this unnamed woman cry out for help and make us feel very uncomfortable in the audience by-design. The film packs exposition [& vitally-important one] on the events leading up to and perpetuating rape-culture, but goes further by also tackling a topic typically-avoided/ignored in #MeToo films: responsibility. Of course, there’s no excuse for the repugnant act of taking advantage of someone sexually, end of story. However, getting blackout-drunk to the point of not being in-control/aware of your surroundings [with no phone and no friends around to help as well] is not a good decision from a survival-standpoint – only making it easier for predators whether in a club or a jungle, here thematized-similarly. The bold decision to also put a light onus on responsibility and making good decisions is a brave [but necessary] bandaid to rip-off no previous films had the stomach to, but one PYW teaches us through nightmare visual experience when a [self-proclaimed] ‘nice guy’ – purposely-unnamed to represent the commonality of the situation – offers to ‘take her home.’ The cynicism and nihilistic chiaroscuro of the scene as it progressively-approaches the dark conclusion on the horizon is cut off just at the climax of disgrace – when our protagonist gives a sardonic grin to the camera breaking the fourth-wall and she corrects her slurred speech to normalize and catch a predator in the act. The scene is, quite likely, the best, most layered and powerful exhibition on rape-culture and #MeToo ever filmed – a deconstruction of the how, when, where, who, and why cut-off at the best possible moment for maximum-efficacy in flipping our preconceptions/expectations alongside the guy’s as we finally meet PYW’s unforgettable protagonist: Cassie Thomas.

An Elaborate Ruse & Vigilante Justice

The Scene Turns Dark & Twisted Before Our Very Eyes, Only For Flip-Switch Revenge & Correction Of Injustice In A Broken Culture; Moxie Typically Ascribed Only To Male LC’s

Photograph Courtesy Of: Universal Studios

A 30 year-old woman living with her parents in Ohio and Medical School-dropout under mysterious circumstances, Cassie is an enigmatic protagonist spending her days working at a coffee shop and nights feigning inebriation at club-scenes like the one above – tricking men into taking her home and thinking they can [& then trying] to take advantage of her, only for her to flip the switch and reveal her sobriety-fueled awareness of what they tried to do. The mission and concept-pitch is brilliant – a feminist-reinterpretation of vigilante justice straight out of a Batman or The Punisher comic book, but mired in [tangible] hyper-realism and handled with the sibylline-sleuth of a Bond/spy film. The moxie and chilled proficiency under extreme pressure [& prospectus of the biggest nightmare ever for a woman] requisite to enact such a fiery wrath of Old Testament psychological-correction on the damned is the type of gut-punch steel and vigor typically-ascribed only to male protagonists in moviemaking – here refreshing & groundbreaking to behold in this new flavor. Films come around only a few times per decade that have the capability to make a lasting impression and galvanize our sociological eyes awake to injustice on such a massive scale; Promising Young Woman has the ingredients to be the first one of the 2020’s by how vividly-stylized and subversively it tackles one of the most traditionally-difficult-to-watch/discuss topics we as a society need to – but don’t want to – talk about. This is so largely due to the herculean career-performance of a Carey Mulligan back from the dead.

The Best Actress Of 2020

The Dichotomization Of Cassie & Multi-Role Revs Difficulty: Feigning A Weak, Defenseless Victim Of Inebriation To Flip Predator/Prey Dynamics W. Old-Tsmt Fire; Beauty & Beast

Photograph Courtesy Of: Universal Studios

The Best Actress Performance Of 2020, Carey Mulligan positively steals the show from the opening flickers. The dichotomization and role-within-a-role of Cassie breathes difficulty: the ability to convincingly play a blackout-drunk, loose, weak, and defenseless fawn while sober [far more of a challenge than it is theoretically without overdoing it or missing your cues], only to flip predator/prey dynamics on the previous-hunters with cool-gun-luke calculations & control in the gravest of circumstances. This beauty-and-the-beast performance is a miracle of acting – one that psychiatrically-realigns criminals without the need for even a single word or punch-thrown. This is a cinematic feminist icon if I’ve ever seen one – one based in realistic-characterization [not a Mary Sue written as perfect-without-flaws like ~every other major girlboss protagonist in modern film]; a human being who just cares enough about her mission to crack metaphorical skulls and enact justice wherever she can help this broken system and underdog reverberating ’80’s American Spirit. Even more impressive is the range on-display – Cassie Thomas is quite arguably the complete-antithesization of Daisy Buchanan and most of her other roles in every possible way, and CM still pulls off the role 95% of actresses would’ve likely failed-in with proficiency, caustic bite, power, edge, sardonic black comedy, and a stare so sharp, it cuts the lens like a knife to the heart. The other performances & characters in the film are strong too: Bo Burnham’s charming/suave perfect-guy love-interest Dr. Ryan with aphrodisiac romantic-chemistry, Alison Brie’s hatable rape-apologist ‘bff’-girl Madison dismissing reported malfeasance as ‘crying wolf’, Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s creepy McLovin-esque Neil, Connie Britton’s hypocritical and fake-caring Dean Walker, Clancy Brown and Jennifer Coolidge’s comedically-awkward parents, Max Greenfield’s douchey frat-bro Joe, and Alfred Molina’s torn-and-haunted lawyer – all working as archetypes too in the system that cycles rape-culture.

The Best Cinematic #MeToo Exposition

A Journalistically-Advanced, Balanced, Depth-Filled Analysis Of Rape-Culture On The Culpability & Failures Of All Parts/Sides

Photograph Courtesy Of: Universal Studios

PYW is, without exaggeration/superlative, the best cinematic #MeToo exposition to-date. The topic is a sensitive one with clearly-drawn lines in the sand between genders fearing the actions and false-accusations both possible in this tricky situation we nonetheless need-to-solve. Of course, it’s more important to side with the women – but ~99%+ of previous cinematic attempts at tackling the subject have completely-failed to understand how to do so effectively, making false, sweeping generalizations of men all being the same & evil, misogynistic demons with crimes-against-nature on our minds 24/7 when that could not be more false. PYW recognizes a clear fundamental aspect of psychology and debate the aforementioned onslaught failed to realize [& is pretty obvious, even at a Pre-K level] – making offensive and simply-untrue generalizations about half the world’s population you want to listen & need the help of to eradicate a systemic problem is going to do nothing but antagonize and actively-dissuade them [both the guity-minority and innocent-far-majority] from even wanting to listen or care about the issue. This is bad for both men and women – only further-perpetuating the system and problem by fueling gender-warfare, preventing cooperation, and lessening the desire of men to get involved in an issue we do care about solving empathetically. Promising Young Woman is fair to both men and women on #MeToo – and therefore the biggest success of the subgenre in making you invest and want to change the system for the betterment of all. The male characters are diverse, not dumbed-down/vilified, and non-stereotypical – from doctors to lawyers to businessmen to frat bros for a more journalistically-honest portraiture of the fact the phenomenon isn’t demographically-isolated and can come from anywhere.

The Mix Of Genres & Refreshing Balance

Part Sardonic Black Comedy, Part Psych. Horror/Slasher, Part Revenge-Thriller, & Part Romance, PYW Doesn’t Generalize Or Oversimplify – & Is Thus More Effective

Photograph Courtesy Of: Universal Studios

The film posits bravely to put a slight onus-of-responsibility on women too to not put themselves in survivably-unfavorable conditions like getting blackout-drunk alone in public and [refreshingly] rebukes condescension from a high-horse that either gender is perfect or blameless – especially-cognizant in the fact that multiple of the cogs of the system painted are women Cassie plays sadistic mind-games on to teach lessons. Rape-apologist Madison, a non-feminist position of housewife to a rich sugar-daddy who slut-shamed Nina and Cassie with accusations of crying-wolf, is broken by being tricked into thinking she herself experienced it one night at the hotel. Medical School Dean Walker is given a taste of her own medicine by a ruse having her believe her daughter is being ganged-on by boys in the same room Nina’s incident, sadistic psychological-torture by her own vices as she can’t remember the room number of Nina’s accident that didn’t make it past her desk when it was reported – Nina being symbolized onto her daughter and the other women-victims. Even the bikini-model fiancée of Al is put under the microscope – obviously not realizing or caring he was a rapist or bad-seed & gold-digging for his anesthesiologist-money, putting materialistic possessions over dignity, feminist progressiveness, and morality. The film even emphasizes the importance of immediate-reporting to law-enforcement – a flaw of the #MeToo movement exploitable when people wait years or even decades after the event has happened to tweet from their iPhone an easily-falsifiable report to bring down a person’s life without evidence or due-process foundational to democracy of innocence-until-proven-guilty. Though the corruptness of the lawyers in Nina’s case negates it and highlights the broken moral-compass of the system, it’s importance to report any illegal activity from rape to murder to the authorities right away with evidence – and PYW makes that important case again absent from most #MeToo films.

The Tarantino/Shyamalanic Finale

Bringing Cassie’s Character Development Full-Circle, A Lushly-Stylized Revenge-Porn Confrontation Deconstructing Justifications

Photograph Courtesy Of: Universal Studios

The mix of genres and stylistic aesthetics of PYW is impressive. The film is part sardonic black comedy injecting a sensitive and edgy topic with a hint of cinnamon effervescence to lighten the mood in how starkly it flips personalities and dynamic-positions, part-satirization/classical comedy by how it pokes fun at thinks like the weird bongo/yoga customs of rich white people at a wedding and rolls its eyes at crazy boy-band fangirls making instagram accounts just for a member’s dog, part revenge-thriller, part-romance, etc. The most shocking and fresh of these is the romance part – further catalyzing the notion that this isn’t the divisive gender-warmongering project ~every other topical film is, even showcasing the beauty [in classically butterfly-inducing and cheesy love song-singing glory] of romance. Perhaps most of all of its genres, though is horror – both psychological and slasher motifs in a bold, new way. The film feels and reads [thanks in many parts to its cleverly and sharply-stylized audiovisual canvas] like a multi-reflexive slasher movie – only the killer isn’t Jason, Freddy, or Michael Myers sticking a knife in some babysitter; the killer in PYW is the good-[girl] slashing for justice and only killing the old selves of people who could be thought of slashers in their own rights to behaviorally-correct them through the most effective possible way: experience. The twisted mind-games Cassie plays with her prey and anyone who questions her Old Testament fist are psychological horror of the highest quality – and the two subgenres merge in the wildest final act you’ll ever see in a #MeToo movie. Coming face-to-face with the devil and monster responsible for ruining her and Nina’s life, she crashes the bachelor’s party of the now highly-successful anesthesiologist Dr. Al Monroe, MD – itself a darkly-ironized commentary on rape-culture being how the guilty oftentimes get away unscathed and go on to live normal and successful lives barely remembering what they did and whose lives they ruined.

A Major [Foundational] Script-Flaw

The One Night The Entire Film Revolves Around Self-Sabotages/Weakens + Betrays Survivors By Making Cassie’s Decade-Long Crusade Fueled By A Secondary Experience

Photograph Courtesy Of: Universal Studios

The characterization and development goes full-circle for Cassie by epic reversal; she shows up in a slutty-nurse/doctor’s outfit ironizing symbolically what she would’ve been if not for Al’s actions ruining her life and is able to slip the rest of the ‘bad boys’ the same drink-drugs they likely slipped many girls at Forrest to get Al all-alone. The 1-on-1 conversation and interplay packs Hitchcockian suspense and real tension/power – a confrontation with the very figure responsible for ruining your life as she explains to him with ice-cold steel in her veins that he ruined Nina’s life that one day and vandalized her identity with his name all-over, and the perfect revenge is to do the same but literally [merging her doctoral/surgical skills with slasherisms going from metaphorical to physical]. The death of Cassie is physically-paralleled to rape by the shot of Al kneeling over her, and final text-reversal a nice touch to give her the victory she deserved. There are far more positives than negatives in PYW and too much groundbreaking potential/importance to negate them – but it certainly does have big flaws. Biggest and a major [foundational] script-flaw that nearly breaks the film: Cassie is not even the survivor of the rape or sexual-assault on the one night in medical school the entire film revolves around as a crux. This is a betrayal of survivors and bizarre removal of primary experience that weakens the motivations and backstory for this decade-long crusade. Why would she have messed up her entire life to drop out of what she quotes as “the only job she ever wanted” when she wasn’t even the one to experience the terrorization firsthand? Doesn’t she have a family to ‘take care of her’ [her stated reason for dropping out], and why would she still not go back [to a different school even if she hated Forrest for their inefficacy in justice and I can say firsthand from experience: medical schools allow time-off and returns for students once-accepted] for 10+ years afterwards if her and Nina stopped talking as it showcases in the events of the film? they haven’t even talked for many years at the time of the film’Taking care of Nina’ [..doesn’t she have a family for that?] for 10+ years, even though they don’t even talk anymore? Not to be crass, but the justification for her entire life being ruined even years later by a secondary experience of what didn’t even happen to her, but to a friend [not even family] is poor-screenwriting and brittle/weak characterization. If they were going to go with the secondary effect [still unequivocably less powerful of a character motivation for a mission like this than being a survivor herself gaining back control/power from what was taken from her], they should’ve given Nina a darker backstory like having committed suicide – that being enough to fuel a best friend to carry out a mission like this and paying respects to the true psychological damage to survivors of these experiences.. instead of just being.. there living in her parents house in the periphery of the film’s events without exposition. Also, some of her psychological-games go too far into tastelessness: like the even threat of orchestrating the sexual-assault of a minor or, worst of all, MURDER Al Monroe’s lawyer with a guy waiting outside his house for her signal to go in as it’s insinuated. No matter how bad any other crime is, nothing compares to the finality and irredeemability of murder, and even comparing or justifying it is sick.

A Mixedly-Executed Third Act

Why Build Up The Romance To Crush It? Why Equate Bystanding With The Action? Why Humanize Al & Give Self-Defense Alibi?

Photograph Courtesy Of: Universal Studios

The entire final confrontation with Ryan is poorly-executed and illogical – yes, bystanding is bad and can help perpetuate the system, but he didn’t do anything himself. Why equate the two wildly-different actions, ruin the star-romance [I just don’t understand the modern feminist-take that you can never date a man because all are bad – sexism/division of the type it acts like it’s going to subvert, but ends up playing to], and worse: threaten to ruin his entire life and career saving children’s lives by exposure of the video [there would’ve been a lot of people at that big of a college party, btw] to all of his friends, workplace, and family? Also, Cassie going from a doctor to a barista/stripper isn’t exactly the power-move of female-empowerment and progressive-agenda PYW thinks it is either – the old adage of ‘success being the best revenge’ is one the filmmakers should learn & achieving the lofty status of an M.D. while female also makes a difference for feminism. Finally, I hate how they humanized Al in the finale. What was the point of spending all film building him up as the ultimate villain who literally raped a girl and ruined multiple lives.. only to turn him into a soft-speaking, ~wimpy shell-of-a-man who is faithful to his wife not even wanting to get danced-on by a stripper [at his own bachelor’s party.. are you sure he’s supposed to be the big bad?] when we finally see him for the first time? Indeed, the finale actually.. makes us feel kind of bad for instead of afraid of Al – not exactly the feeling we want to experience for a guy with his track-record. The douchebro cockiness and smug irreverence of frat-bro Joe is exactly what Al should’ve been – a character to hate as repugnant as the crime-against-nature he committed. The fact that Cassie tried to sadistically-murder him with a surgical knife also gives him an alibi for self-defense; again, poorly-scripted not even technically being murder-with-intent because he was defending himself and breaking the metaphoric parallel it makes of murder and rape by him not being the aggressor in the murder part. Sure, he’ll get indicted and life ruined for the video on the phone delivered to the judge’s house – but will probably from a legal standpoint get off for the murder-charge and thus not spend the rest of his life in jail: incomplete-justice he deserved worse from.

Conclusion

One Of The Best Films Of 2020

A Boldly-Stylized, Delicious New Flavor Of Revenge-Thriller W. ’80’s Sex-Appeal/Edge & #MeToo Vitality – Flipping Predator/Prey Dynamics W. Moxie & A Career Performance

Photograph Courtesy Of: Universal Studios

Overall, Promising Young Woman is one of the best films of 2020. The luscious ’80’s-thematized sex-appeal and chemical opulence of the audiovisual canvas is overwhelming – a hallucinogenic/drug-like mix of score and cinematography to get drunk and inebriated on, putting us almost in the position of its victims in the audience as it mixes everything from Hitchockian string-tensions to orchestral recreations of Britney Spears’ Toxic to 808-fueled pop-electronica future bass in a stylistically-modernized canvas of pop-cultural palatability gulpable by the gallons. The film might be the best ever on the topic of #MeToo and extremely difficult-to-tackle theme of sexual-assault/rape – one that plays both sides with journalistic integrity as it paints a surgical deconstruction of the scene with as much proficiency as its med school dropout protagonist. Carey Mulligan delivers a masterpiece career-performance that stands as easily the best of 2020 by how cutting-edge she plays the calculating vigilantism of a one-woman buck-you to the system, correcting its many injustices with sardonic wit and pressure-cooled intensity as she flips predator/prey dynamics at the flip of a black-comedic switch from drunk-to-sober and rages full-escalation psychological warfare on the men, enabling women, and crooked law enforcement policies that perpetuate rape culture to psychiatrically-correct them. E. Fennell has become a writer-director to watch with this astonishing first feature production – one that understands the core of human psychology: if you want to truly tackle/analyze a topic, don’t come in kicking-and-screaming with generalized accusations painting all guys as predators who stalk bars every morning, noon, and night [as they’re clearly not by the billions] – present that there are problematic men and women who all need to evolve to correct this injustice for the betterment of society. The screenplay is one of the best original screenplays for a first-time director likely of the 2010’s-on – proficiently-dissecting the complex issue with pulp fiction mystery rooted in basal realism in vigilante justice that plays both sides with fairness and equality in chastizement/indictment without resorting to stereotypes or virtue-signaling to show it can happen to anyone, anywhere, anytime. There are major script flaws of the central experience and character motivations for this one-woman crusade being a twice-removed one and thus not as powerful or logical as a first-person experience of it happening directly to Cassie [or Nina committing suicide by the psychological trauma to pay respect to the psychological damage of survivors and better-fuel the motivations of its protagonist and bizarre humanization & self-defense alibi of Al in the end, but not enough to negate its precocious dialogue on this vitally-important topic. A boldly-stylized, candy-coated, delicious new flavor of revenge-thriller with ’80’s sex-appeal/edge & palpable relevance for #MeToo era, PYW flips predator-prey dynamics with black-comedic moxie [alongisde romance & slasher/psych-horror undertones] for a dazzling first-feature by E. Fennell & career-performance by Carey Mulligan.

Official CLC Score: 8.5/10