Movie Review: Promising Young Woman (2020)

Posted: April 25, 2021 in Comedy, Drama, Romance
Tags: , ,

Cassandra (Carey Mulligan) had a promising career as a medical student, until she drops out of medical school after something traumatic happened to her best friend Nina. Now, Cassie spends her days working at a coffee shop with her friend Gail (Laverne Cox) and her nights going on strange dates with even stranger men. It is at the coffee shop where Cassie meets Ryan. (Bo Burnham) Ryan used to go to medical school with Cassie and had a crush on her. They date, but their relationship gets off to a rocky start because Cassie is keeping secrets from Ryan about her nighttime activities.

Through Ryan, Cassandra befriends Madison, (Allison Brie) who went to medical school with both Cassandra and Nina, but she doesn’t remember what happened to Nina. But after Madison finds herself on a compromised position, she remembers some very important information about what happened to Nina, and passes it on to Cassie. What does Cassie do with the information. Do Ryan and Cassandra smooth out the bumps in their relationship?

This is a weird movie. It is undoubtedly a vigilante movie, but it tries to be a strange mashup between revenge porn and a romantic comedy. Imagine a movie that mixes Death Wish, Say Anything, and Misery. As strange as that combination sounds, this movie is oddly dependent on the romantic relationship between Cassie and Ryan. The relationship with Ryan and the romantic tone serve at least three purposes, it serves to normalize the Cassandra character, instead of making her the obsessive, compulsive loner she appears to be, second it gives Cassandra a way to get in touch with old acquaintances in medical school, and third, it lends credence to the movie’s predisposed views about men. But the viewer gets whiplash from the tonal shifts in this film. There is a twist, and it almost saves the film from being another predictable vigilante film, but not quite.

The acting is adequate. Carey Mulligan is nominated for an Oscar, she’s asked to play two roles here, a world-weary woman who has seen the worst of what men have to offer, and a woman waking up to the possibility that she might be in love. It’s a tall order playing two distinct roles in one character, and she pulls off the world-weary woman very well, but doesn’t really pull off the woman falling in love too well. Her American accent is quite heavy, and slips a few times. Bo Burnham is quite convincing as the pediatric surgeon and possible love interest for Mulligan’s character. Laverne Cox, most known for her role in Orange Is The New Black is mostly used as comedy relief and is absent from most of the serious potions of the film.

The director, Emerald Farrell, is also an actress, is also nominated for an Oscar, she shouldn’t win. The pacing is uneven, sometimes recalling a horror movie, sometimes sluggish and slow. She doesn’t control the narrative either, which is all over the map. The set piece, or climactic scene is much too reminiscent of the film Misery, and even though she pulls off quite an imaginative plot twist, it’s not enough to save the movie from its multiple personalities. Regina King should have been nominated for best director and was not.

Promising Young Woman: Carrie’s Mulligan Stew performance doesn’t work for this viewer.

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