Promising Young Woman is less than the sum of its parts.
The #metoo thriller features the Oscar-buzz-worthy performance of Carey Mulligan (the supporting cast is great too), bubblegum pink visuals, earworm pop tunes, and an upbeat pace that makes its 2-hour running time unnoticeable.
On one regular night, an “intoxicated” Cassie lies on a bed and a guy peppers her with kisses while complimenting her body. “What are you doing?”, she says as “nice guy” Jerry pulls down her cotton panties. Her revelation is a joy to watch as Cassie calls out her attempted rapists, echoing the voices of journalists who have ripped apart male entitlement and toxic masculinity.
And that’s it. While Promising Young Woman has earnest intentions that are clearly shown, it’s actually a trap.
In this supposedly rape-vengeance fantasy that centers around an anti-heroine who smashes a guy’s windshield with a crowbar while in the middle of the road, comeuppance is no more than a well-administered burn. This anti-climactic M.O. has a consolation prize that the red marks in her notebook could mean something else.
Cassie documents her successes like a fratboy would keep tabs on his conquests. The names don’t matter. But the real reason behind this clouds the message of the movie. Cassie is a solo avenger for a friend who got date-raped in med school and committed suicide. Nina is nothing more than a plot device. It’s clear that Cassie’s doing this more for herself, and the movie robs her of a fitting catharsis too.
Promising Young Woman then alternates between retribution and redemption. Cassie’s parents are happy that she’s dating Dr. Stone (Bo Burnham). But eventually, this path towards normal adulthood is cut short. She gets back on track doling karmic justice on a couple of enablers.
This downward spiral of a grieving med school dropout who could’ve been mentioned in a “Am I the Asshole?” Reddit post concludes with a disempowering ending to tie its loose ends. Promising Young Woman tells us that it costs two women for one man to go to jail.
For all its posturing as a rape-vengeance story, Promising Young Woman is a tame indictment. This #metoo thriller tries too hard yet comes up short.
Promising Young Woman
Promising Young Woman is a well-acted vividly-stylized rape-vengeance story that suffers from a disempowering message.