Promising Young Woman
FOCUS FEATURES (2021)
Director: Emerald Fennell
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, Clancy Brown, Jennifer Coolidge, Laverne Cox, and Connie Britton
Thrills? Dark humour? Popping colours? Twists? Look no further. Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman starts as it absolutely means to go on - with some classic misdirection and the introduction of a wonderfully realised and excellently cast character in Carey Mulligan’s Cassandra. Each night, Cassandra goes to the local bars, seemingly gets blind drunk and hooks up with one of the patrons of the drinking hole but it's not as simple as that, no...no. Cassandra has other ideas for these predatory guys who think they’re getting lucky but the fun lies in finding out the extent of these plans for yourselves.
Carey Mulligan delivers a ferociously good turn as Cassandra - equal parts scheming, chilling, sardonic, determined, and vulnerable as she carries out her more-than-justified nightly...errands that are designed to keep us guessing as to what exactly is happening, where is this all going and how far is Cassandra going too? Solid supporting turns from Bo Burnham, Laverne Cox, Clancy Brown, and Jennifer Coolidge (the latter pair playing Cassandra’s parents) further solidify the foundations. Fennell marvellously juggles differing tones in order to create a striking narrative blend that encapsulates dark comedy, a revenge/retribution story with rom-com elements, and a twist of mystery too - combine those elements with sharp dialogue and a shocking third act twist and it’s clear that Fennell’s debut offering is a step above the competition. The fact that the consistent tonal shifts are integrated so seamlessly is a testament to the flair and talent Fennell brings to the proceedings. At one point during the movie, I thought I had cracked any potential clues, I believed I had unraveled the mysteries, cleverly piecing together the scraps thrown out to create the obvious twist but I was so pleased to say I was dead wrong and that made the big third act even more impactful than it already would have been.
To assist with Fennell’s laser-sharp writing and direction, Benjamin Kračun’s cinematography is excellent and really helps to bring the sometimes dreamlike locations to life. The pinks and blues pop off the screen like a bubblegum dream and somehow juxtapose perfectly with the more dreary stylings of Cassandra’s parent's house (where she currently resides), Promising Young Woman is a feast for the eyes in every way.
Promising Young Woman promised a lot and delivered it all. Visually wonderful, narratively engaging, and intriguing, and led by a stellar lead performance from Carey Mulligan, this is a genuinely great movie full of surprises, well-placed comedy, and a ton of satisfying and shocking moments in what is a fabulous debut offering from Emerald Fennell.
January 17th 2021