“Promising young woman,” powerful #metoo film

Picture of Julian Liurette

Julian Liurette

Carrey Mulligan as Cassie, in a look reminiscent of Margot Robbie in Suicide Squad. Margot Robbie is one of the film’s producers.

Carey Mulligan stars in this dark comedy/thriller which takes place nowadays in Ohio’s suburbia. It’s difficult to categorize the film’s genre. It’s dark, it’s occasionally funny, it’s romantic, it’s mysterious, it’s several genres at once but it works and the story unfolds for the most part in unpredictable ways. 

Carey Mulligan plays Cassie, a 30 year-old blond woman, who still lives with her parents in their weirdly eccentric home. She has a job in a coffee shop and doesn’t have any friends. One of her past times involves pretending to be drunk at various bars and wait until a man asks to help her bring her home. Through this ploy, she checks if the man will try to force himself upon her at which point she stops pretending to be drunk and… Well it isn’t completely clear in the film: does she kill some of the guys? Or does she just lectures them? Of both? Cassie has a notebook in which she keeps track of the men she meets. It’s unclear at first why Cassie takes it upon herself to “educate” these men. She seems psychologically deranged until we discover that her best friend Nina was sexually molested. The movie slowly releases bits of information regarding this and introduces us to different characters who were involved in the act that took place seven years prior. 

Cassie’s love interest played by super tall Bo Burnham

The movie’s second part shifts into a romantic comedy as Cassie unexpectedly falls in love with a former medical school classmate. Through this, and because Nina’s mom asks her to move on, Cassie decides to let go of her “education” mission. However, the resurgence of a video recorded while Nina was being sexually assaulted triggers Cassie to seek full revenge. 

The film’s writer and director Emerald Fennell in the middle.

This is a clever script. The director/writer Emerald Fennell exposes through Cassie’s encounters the different types of men and women who contribute to the culture of sexual predators to thrive. There is of course the actual male predator and his friends, but also the lawyer who defends them, the university dean – a woman in this case – who buries the event, and the witnesses or the so-called innocent bystanders. 

The film is clearly inspired by real events linked to the #metoo movement and is a scathing charge against this whole system of protecting the perpetrators more than the victims of sexual assault. 

The third part of the film is by far the most dramatic. All the built-in rage culminates in this section. It’s over-the-top but is it really? I’ll let you judge. It even features a deranged sounding musical arrangement of Britney Spears’ “Toxic” which is sadly and unfortunately very appropriate. 

The film was not perfect as there were small editing discontinuities. It’s also difficult at times to believe that Carrey Mulligan plays a 30 year old as she looks older. Not a huge thing but it plays into our suspension of disbelief a few times. Also, it’s never explained in the film why her parents’ house is decorated so strangely as it is. The flm is a bit slow at the beginning, particularly when Cassie meets her second drunk “date” in a heavy handed scene as Cassie spells out for us what she does with these men. This exposure scene with Christopher Mintz-Plasse could have been removed and the film would have been more mysterious and powerful right from the get-go.  I wish the story had also shown the authorities as being at times just as guilty as all the men portrayed but there’s only so much you can fit in a two hour film. 

All this being said, the film is a superb piece of entertainment as well as a powerful conversation starter about what constitute an appropriate and respectful sexual behaviour towards another person. 

8/10 Seen on Youtube via a $7.90 UHD rental. Seen with Douglas on April 24th, 2021

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