Promising Young Woman is a Revenge Thriller That Delivers

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Look how easy that was. I guess you just had to think about it in the right way.
I guess it feels different when it’s someone you love.

Carey Mulligan kills it in Promising Young Woman. Cassie (Mulligan), traumatized by a tragic event in her past, seeks out vengeance against those who crossed her path.

Revenge has never been so colorful juxtaposed against such a grim reality. The grim reality revolving around Nina, Cassie’s friend who commits suicide after dropping out of med school following her rape.

Some critics are asking if we really have a place for rape revenge fantasies though?

I caved and spent $20 on Amazon Prime to rent Promising Young Woman, which is now in theaters. I went into this movie like many movies of 2020 – completely blind. Comedy, drama? I had no idea, but let me tell you, this twisted tale is pitch black. 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.” Lol.

What made me apprehensive about seeing this movie was the amount of negative reviews pouring in from various outlets. The majority of criticism is coming from (surprise) mostly men.

Jourdain Searles at Bitch Media knocks the movie’s “short-sighted adherence to old ideas of crime and punishment.” She writes, “now that we know that rape is a systemic issue with an entire culture designed to protect it, how fresh can a one-woman-against-the-world narrative actually be?”

She concludes that the movie’s “rape culture talking points” ultimately “don’t cover any new ground.” But does it have to? Wouldn’t it kind of be cool to look back at this movie and think of the monstrosity that our culture once was prior to the #MeToo movement?

“Himpathy” — defined by philosopher Kate Manne as the cultural tendency to value privileged men’s feelings over those of the people they’ve hurt — has always stood to sabotage #MeToo. People started complaining the movement had gone “too far” from the moment it first arose. But don’t expect to find any “himpathy” in this movie.

It may be a little behind in times, but it’s message still rings strong. If you look at comedies like “Animal House” (where a college freshman debates date-raping a passed out girl), or “Sixteen Candles” (when Molly Ringwald’s love interest leaves his blackout-drunk girlfriend with a virgin nerds and tells him, “Do anything you want,” our culture previously openly mocked rape. It was comedy. Promising Young Woman may be a little late to the party, but it definitely wants to reaffirm the point of #MeToo.

“I’ve seen all these films and laughed along and didn’t really think about it,” Mulligan said. “And then you sit back and think, ‘Oh gosh, that’s actually not funny at all. That’s horrendous!’ It really takes some thought to not just go along with those laughs.”

“I read the Variety review, because I’m a weak person,” Mulligan said. “And I took issue with it.” She paused, debating whether she really wanted to go there. “It felt like it was basically saying that I wasn’t hot enough to pull off this kind of ruse,” she said. Variety seemed stumped by the movie and strongly implied that Mulligan had been miscast. [After this article was published, Variety added an editor’s note to its review of “Promising Young Woman” saying that it “regrets the insensitive language and insinuation” that “minimized her daring performance.”]

I’ve never been wild about Carey Mulligan, but this Oscar-nominee hopeful definitely addresses a type of role/character she’s never played before. Expect to see this movie briefly pop up during award season, but not for anything outside of Mulligan’s acting chops. It’s a smart movie, with a crisp script, and hopefully it scares the people who need to get scared the most.

7 thoughts on “Promising Young Woman is a Revenge Thriller That Delivers”

  1. I’ll be dropping $20 to rent it to so don’t feel bad. I was very gung ho for this movie but Katy and Sati’s reviews of it give me a bit of pause, so I’ve adjusted my expectations. But I love Mulligan, I think she was robbed of another Oscar nomination for Wildlife so I hope she gets nominated again. I hope to watch this this week.

  2. Nice review! Really want to see this and honestly can’t figure out how I’ll feel about it based on reviews. But I love a divisive film. Better than a boring film… I hate watching movies I know I’ll forget in a years time. 😊

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