And the winner of Best Actress is…Carey Mulligan. I know I am not actually in charge of the Oscars, but I cannot imagine any performance being as majestic, magnetic and just slightly manic as Cassandra in Promising Young Woman.
I’ve been trying to work out how to review this brilliantly dark rollercoaster ride for a few days, it is tricky because the whole thing relies on you not knowing too much. So, what I have done is watch the below trailer to see what I knew before watching, it doesn’t give too much away and neither will I, I want you to experience the heartbeats and the horror and the breathless moments as I did. Emerald Fennell’s script and direction are both razor sharp, she throws your heart around like a heavyweight boxer. When you think the film is going to go left, it goes right. When you think it might raise up, that is when it pulls the rug. Ouch. i left the film breathless, absolutely breathless.
‘Man! Talk about the plot!’, okay, again I am going no further than the trailer shows, but Cassandra goes to nightclubs, falls over, shows her underwear, attracts the ‘nice guy’ who offers to take her home and then just when he is taking off her underwear, she flips the switch and “oh my god, are you sober?” These scenes might now be so powerful, if she did not have famous counterparts, holy cow, Seth from The OC! McLovin! The genius of this is that the viewer is programmed to think that these are good guys, if their on screen friends had done it, fine, I don’t know that guy, another genius tool used by Fennell to swerve the viewer.
Whilst the beginning sequences seem to channel Bret Easton Ellis, Kathy Acker, Andrea Dworkin, there is a point in the film where this girl who ‘hates men’ (God, that’s such a #notallmen response to her character, I put it in quotes because I don’t believe it, but I have seen idiots taking it this way, did they not watch the last, oooh, 90 minutes of the film? Took too much attention huh?) suddenly falls into a late 80’s John Hughes film and you find yourself cheering at the screen thinking she is ‘saved’, but again, fuck the idea of a girl being ‘saved’ by a man, I just mean I felt warm in these scenes and felt his love for love breaking through the screen, but again Fennell is ready and…That’s enough. Again, I’m only spoiling the trailer scenes.
Later scenes, you might be expecting an Eli Roth bloodbath, as everything seems to be building up to an Abel Ferrara MS.45 style revenge fantasy but the film is much more subtle than that, much cleverer than that and by god, a lot deeper than that, my heart is still beating faster thinking of the climax, that might be the wrong word, or perhaps Fennell/Mulligan would see it as the right word.
Promising Young Woman is a glorious character study one minute and an indictment of half of the population the next. If you feel attacked by it, then you probably deserve to be attacked, yes yes, not all men, I know. But one man like those in Promising Young Woman is more than enough.
Script, Director, Female Actor, your call Oscar, do it right.