I am so full of rage
Release date: December 25, 2020
Director: Emerald Fennell
Who should watch this movie: Everyone. Men especially.
When should you watch this movie: Now! Do it now people!
The sell: Promising Young Women is made better by how awful it could have been were it not for a handful of key directorial choices. An updated installment in a long line of rape-revenge stories, Emerald Fennell’s debut film cleverly subverts our expectations. This film trains a bifocal lens on both the current discourse around rape culture (what some would call the Me Too era), as well as a history of glorified trauma porn touted as “empowering” revenge films, which has peppered Hollywood’s output for the past several decades. Balancing elegantly on a razor thin line, Fennell forces her audience to reckon with the reality of sexual violence and its consequences without showing us any sexual violence. Instead of relying on shock value, Fennell holds our eyes open to the shared responsibility, complicity, and guilt of a system built to shield young men from accountability. Interestingly, Promising Young Woman was marketed as a horror film, and in some ways it is. However, Carrie Mulligan’s Cassandra is not a horror villain and the story is not any more horrifying than the lived experience of most women. Nor is Cassandra a tragic anti-hero or unhinged vigilante fighter. She is simply a grieving woman, employing her not insubstantial intelligence towards acting on an anger that every single woman has felt at some time in her life. Everything about the production of this film is impeccable, from the soundtrack to the color palette to the performances. Carrie Mulligan in particular stands out for her intricately layered portrayal of Cassandra, but Bo Burnham’s Ryan is hot on her heels in a performance none of us knew he could pull off. While there is no Sexual Violence TW for this movie about sexual violence, I will note that it is not an easy watch, especially for those who are forced to navigate the reality of these themes on a daily basis. And a final note: I will be sucker punching any man who dares say “not all men,” to me from this point forward (should have been doing so all along tbh).