- Promising Young Woman is one of those rare films that you immediately look forward to watching again after you’re done- there is much to unpack.
- It marks the debut film for Emerald Fennell who wrote and directed (winning an Oscar for the screenplay). She is an actress as well. It is a choice role for Carey Mulligan. I think on a per-minute basis she is better in Steve McQueen’s Shame (2011)—but it is tough to compare because she is in almost every frame here in Promising Young Woman as she plays Cassandra.
- Fennell’s film starts with some strong slow-motion photography (which she’ll call back to at the end of the film), and quickly after that we get a glimpse at her dedication to a very specific pastel dollhouse vision for her world through color and production design. Cassandra’s fingernails are loudly painted, there are colored chilis above the bed, there is hot pink lighting galore.
- Fennell’s screenplay fearlessly shifts tone. But it is razor sharp- she pulls it off- it is never grating or awkward. There will be some violence, or seriously offensive behavior (by any number of male characters in the film- essentially everyone except for the Alfred Molina character) and then Mulligan’s Cassandra will punctuate a scene with a “Your novel sounds terrible by the way” hilarious one-liner. The success in mixing the tones is a compliment to both Fennell’s writing, and Mulligan’s performance.
- There is a subtext here throughout. Prey vs. predator (two references to Laughton’s Night of the Hunter– a scene from the film, and a lullaby sung). There is a Panique (1946, Duvivier—false accusation, group think, sort of a Kaftaesque rigged system society) poster as well.
- Fennell often frames the characters (especially in Cassandra’s home) through hallways— showing the isolation between her and her parents (marked by the preceding devastating incident that is never fully shown).
- Confectionery in design- like a Brittany Spears video (a key song in the film, a horror version/– all strings version of “Toxic”). Paris Hilton’s song in the pharmacy (as a disarmingly charming Bo Burnham sings along with Mulligan).
- Burnham’s “my parents wanted me to be a deejay” line- haha
- Pink roman numbers mark the chapters—her revenge hit list- she is righting wrongs.
- Highly Recommend rating for now- perhaps even leaning HR/MS excited to revisit
A lot of impressive aspects to this film
– Splendid use of color
– As stated above the changes in tone are highly effective
– I always love genre blends, here we have a comedy with melodrama and thriller elements
– normally not a big Britney Spears fan, but love the way it uses Toxic, almost feels like a music
video at times
– Carey Mulligan dominates every scene she’s in; she is simultaneously in command and
– While I am usually wary of “issue movies” I thought this one didn’t go overboard in terms of
becoming “preachy”, some might disagree due to its portrayal of men, none the less I
thought I think Mulligan’s character was portrayed with some nuance as the film does seem
to question many of her actions
– definitely looking forward to any future films from Fennell
@Drake – I was waiting for you to review this one! I thought it was amazing. You picked some great examples above of the photography and there were numerous others. I predicted you’d have it as a MS – maybe you’ll get there! Hard to believe it was Fennell’s first film.
@Matt– A very impressive film- especially for a first time filmmaker. Excited to see what Fennell does next