‘Promising Young Woman’ Review: A Complicated, if Well-Intentioned Tale of Revenge


The start of Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman is one that already feels very indicative of an entire culture that’s been enabling men to be at their absolute worst, especially regarding their treatment of women – even after the prominence of the Me Too movement in recent years. But the moment you see Carey Mulligan finally arise to put the supposed “nice guy” back in his place, Fennell’s film starts to show its true colours – and that’s all among the most admirable aspects that shines thoroughly in this new take on the rape and revenge story. What follows from then on, what Promising Young Woman will provide will not leave your head either.

In the starring role is Carey Mulligan, playing Cassie Thomas. We’re introduced to Cassie at a bar, seemingly drunk, before being taken in by a man that introduces himself as a “nice guy,” perfectly setting the tone for this would-be revenge thriller. Cassie, having been traumatized by the rape and eventual death of her best friend Nina, seeks to exact vengeance upon those who have led her down this path. What soon follows is not any other revenge thriller but rather an interrogation of rape culture, taking on that same structure we’ve come to recognize over the years. What’s happened to Nina is thankfully never shown in the film, but in seeing how her tragedy is what pushes Cassie on 

Emerald Fennell’s goal is an admirable one; and during its peaks, Promising Young Woman takes such a bold stance with regards to how people are far too willing to cast doubts on an accusation of rape – and ultimately where it leads. From the first moment onward, you’re seeing the perfect way in which a supposed “nice guy” can really have that cover blown off by what they’re ultimately tempted to take upon themselves (as shown again through a brilliant scene with Christopher Mintz-Plasse later on in the film), contrasting the fantasy that many rape-and-revenge thrillers of the past have created. We’ve seen in the film’s marketing, every man’s worst nightmare is getting accused of rape – but why must that overpower the fact that women in Cassie’s position have feared men who take that “nice guy” stance to their advantage?

At the center of this film is a career best performance from the always wonderful Carey Mulligan. In how she personifies Cassie, that vengeful spirit damaged by a person whom she loved so much having been taken away from her so cruelly after what she had undergone, Mulligan puts her all into that role. She manages to be both endearing and intimidating in the best possible ways, like the best-crafted heroes of these revenge films can be, going from Ms .45 or Lady Snowblood, leaving you with that idea she could easily be among those ranks. There’s never a moment where she’s onscreen where you’ll ever find yourself looking away out of fear, but curiosity for what she’ll do to the next man who dares cross her.

Surely enough, this movie will prove itself divisive – with the look of a rape-and-revenge thriller it can’t quite escape that feeling it’ll be exploitative and not enough at the same time. Nevertheless, there’s a refreshing feeling coming out from Fennell not showing Nina’s rape, because it’s something we’d seen too many times but the effect upon which it has left upon Cassie can still be felt. In seeing how it all adds up, Cassie has now turned towards the destructive, towards the people around her – but even to her own self. But there comes a question we ask ourselves about the devastating reality which the film’s ending proposes to its audience. Personally, I cannot say I am sure that it entirely works – but it becomes near impossible to delve into what the film proposes at said moment without spoiling it for those who have not seen it, so I cannot say much at the very moment.

Although I acknowledge my reservations about the direction in which the film had gone ultimately keep me from loving it, I can’t help but feel as if there will be many important talks about the way in which we approach rape culture coming forth as a result of how Promising Young Woman puts many of these positions to the test. In its moments of dark comedy it still flashes you with a more devastating picture, one that combats the culture which has only been perpetuated over the years by constantly buying into the “nice guy” mirage. At its very best, you still have a film that perfectly replicates the look you’d want a film of this sort to take on, but I can’t shake off that feeling that where it becomes too much, it turns itself into too little at the same time. When Emerald Fennell comes out with a new film, I do look forward to seeing how it will turn out.

Watch the trailer right here.

All images via Focus Features.

Directed by Emerald Fennell
Screenplay by Emerald Fennell
Produced by Margot Robbie, Josey McNamara, Tom Ackerley, Ben Browning, Ashley Fox, Emerald Fennell
Starring Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, Clancy Brown, Jennifer Coolidge, Laverne Cox, Connie Britton
Release Date: December 25, 2020
Running Time: 113 minutes


Jaime’s Film Diary: February 28, 2020

In order to continue keeping this site as active as possible while I have not been able to write as many full-length film reviews as I had planned initially, I figured that another solution would have come by in placing my Letterboxd entries starting from the week before here as a placeholder for eventual full-length reviews that are set to come by, if I were able to find the time to write another one. But as is, these are quick thoughts that I figure would be nice to keep afloat so that the site will remain active on a regular basis.

First-time viewings are noted as such. You can follow me on Letterboxd right here.

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The Post – Review


Steven Spielberg’s movies are either a fun time or a boring lecture. Those who have stuck around with his work for so long would already be able to recognize his trademarks regardless of the sort of films he makes whether it be his usual sentimentality or father-child issues – because they’ve pervaded the many sorts of films he makes whether they be fun for the masses or a historical drama. Quite frankly, I’ve never exactly been the hugest fan of many of Spielberg’s historical dramas (although Schindler’s List may be an exception I still have my own reservations about its handling of the subject matter) so The Post was not going to be a high priority for me. But after having been pleasantly surprised with Bridge of Spies, I figured it was worth giving a chance – and I’m glad I gave one to The Post.

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The Disaster Artist – Review


James Franco goes behind and in front of the camera to tell the story of the making of the infamous 2003 cult film The Room, often regarded as one of the worst movies ever made. But Tommy Wiseau’s The Room has enjoyed another reputation of its own because it’s already an enigma, it’s difficult to truly put together how it was even made because even the most skilled filmmaker couldn’t have been able to replicate its wonder. It was easy enough to be skeptical that a film about something of the sort would only be none other than a vanity project showing how well can Franco perform an imitation of such a unique entity, but through The Disaster Artist he also created a more empathetic and even cynical picture that goes beyond my expectations.

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The Lego Movie – Review


On the surface it would be easy to say that The Lego Movie is a horrible concept and yet Phil Lord and Chris Miller manage to make something so much better than what would ever be expected out of it. With The Lego Movie, the duo’s second foray into animation after Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, they take the beloved toy line and somehow manage to tell a story out of it with such ease. For as broad as the limits could ever be, it’s nice to see that the duo make great awareness of such with The Lego Movie and call for greater wonders by bringing them onto the big screen. First they take the improbable with Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs or 21 Jump Street but something that could have easily come off as a nearly two hour long commercial ultimately becomes even more joyful inside.

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The Kings of Summer – Review


What’s offered by The Kings of Summer is a premise that could very well be so much more than what it presents on the screen because it has a pleasant idea going for it. Yet what glares from start to finish is the film’s lack of originality. While I’m not one to deny that the film is sporadically entertaining from time to time, the emotional detachment to which I had felt from the main characters hindered any sort of enjoyment to the film as a whole. That’s among many problems to which The Kings of Summer presents, it’s a film that so desperately wants the viewers to relate with the protagonists’ desire for freedom yet what we are offered is something that just fails at delivering the simple message it wishes to present. Continue reading →

No Stranger than Love – Review

I really like Alison Brie as an actress but it seems as if only television has been able to show what she’s capable of for her career on film is filled either with mediocity (Scream 4, How to Be Single, The Kings of Summer) and some outright terrible entries (The Five-Year Engagement, Get Hard, Get a Job). Sadly, this might very well be the worst of the bunch. As a fan of her work on Community, Mad Men, and BoJack Horseman, it saddens me that her output on film has been less than impressive. Something tells me that No Stranger than Love is a film tailor-made to irritate me as much as it did, for otherwise I just see no point to its existence. Continue reading →

Get a Job – Review


If it hadn’t been clear to the studios already, it says a lot when a movie is shelved. Apparently, Get a Job was shelved for a total of five years and after it had just been released, it’s understandable. Get a Job isn’t exactly a film that is worth getting angry at, because even for how much many of the jokes simply don’t land, there’s just nothing even being committed. If I were to think of another film that just practically had no sort of aim, The Do-Over would come to mind but unlike said film, Get a Job doesn’t feature some sort of an offensive excuse to shove in some sort of plot. All we are really being presented is a series of jokes failing to land one after another, somehow managing to sustain a running time of eighty two minutes, which it wastes shamelessly. Continue reading →

Sleeping with Other People – Review


After loathing Leslye Headland’s first feature Bachelorette I was skeptical of the praises which I had heard in regards to her next feature, Sleeping with Other People but the moment I came out I’m glad to have given it a chance. While I’m not to deny that there are many beats that strike back to what’s already typical of the sort, there’s an effectiveness coming out from how charming and honest it is in terms of how it has been executed. Knowing that a number of romantic comedies within this day and age suffer from heavily unlikable characters or a lack of actual humor but the honesty to Sleeping with Other People proves itself to be a rather pleasant rise above the usual standards nowadays, to which I appreciate. Continue reading →

The Five-Year Engagement – Review

I’m pretty sure the apt title can describe the experience of watching The Five-Year Engagement because every excruciating minute just left me waiting for the end. I guess me generally not being a fan of Judd Apatow-produced romantic dramedies can be one thing but even some of his weaker ones have some heart to them which I can appreciate yet in here, perhaps the lack of engagement (that joke was set to be made at least once) with how everything is flowing was sure to take me out for every bit of it grew to be nothing short of aggravating. I can admit the cast had me rather interested and it looked harmless enough from a few trailers, but seeing the final product was unbearable. Continue reading →