Promising Young Woman (2020)

SPOILERS FOR A RECENTLY RELEASED MOVIE

MINOR SPOILERS, MOSTLY BASED ON WHAT WAS SHOWN IN TRAILERS

One of the downsides of doing an event or theme month is that anything that doesn’t fit in gets pushed back. I saw Promising Young Woman near the middle of January but it absolutely didn’t match that month’s “worst ever” theme. Plus, I had already cheesed it by finding a negative review for the good movie Possessor, so doing that twice felt too much like cheating. So here we are in February, talking about a movie that came out in December. Ever so topical.

The films stars Mrs. Carey Mulligan (motherfuckin’ Sally Sparrow from Doctor Who!) as Cassandra, a woman who was on track to become a doctor but then… something happened. Something that inspires her to pretend to be shitfaced in clubs and letting “nice guys” take her home with them, only to confront them for their shitty behavior. Does she shame them? Kill them? The trailers are super vague so I’m not telling! Then she meets Ryan (Bo Burnham), a classmate from her med school days who seems like an actual nice guy. But soon Cassie is confronted with evidence that some people from back then have gone on unpunished, and that cannot stand.

I really don’t want to give too many spoilers for this great film, but I think it’s fairly safe to say–based on what the trailers implied and tidbits from the beginning of the movie–that the incident in her past involves her friend being sexually assaulted. The fact that she’s named Cassandra and no one believed her is not lost on me, either. This is the unfortunate world we live in, where allegations of sexual assault are often swept away in order to preserve the status of powerful men. Sure, “innocent until proven guilty” and all that, but too often that turns into victim blaming or character assassination of the accusers. This movie may be fiction, but it’s built on an idea that someone frustrated with a lack of justice will go to these extremes. Is it a good thing? Arguable. Should it be celebrated? Also arguable. Did it make for a gripping story? Absolutely.

I will say that I did not expect the ending we got. Make of that what you will.

But let’s raise the mood a little and talk about the stellar cast. So many recognizable names are in this! From the trailers you see Alison Brie as a former classmate, Connie Britton as the college dean, Molly Shannon as her friend’s mother, and Adam Brody and Christopher Mintz-Plasse as two of the dudes who pick her up at bars. Not appearing in trailers I saw, we also have Laverne Cox as Cassie’s coworker, Clancy Brown and Jennifer Coolidge as Cassie’s parents, and (minor spoiler) Alfred Molina as… well, he’s there and does stuff, I’ll leave it at that. It’s so refreshing to see a star-studded film that’s actually good! Yes, I’m going to die mad about Collateral Beauty!

Anyway, this is a movie I recommend with three caveats: The story is about a sexual assault and absolutely could trigger people, the ending is a fuck of a thing and can be distressing to people, and because it’s trying to make up for a lack of theater support, renting it for 48 hours can cost $20 right now. So content and price warning.


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