Promising Young Woman (2020)

Quick Synopsis: Cassie (Carey Mulligan) attempts to get revenge on behalf of her friend Nina, who was raped and committed suicide after the perpetrator wasn’t punished.

It’s about time I got round to this. This, and French Dispatch are the last of the films from this year that I missed that I felt I needed to watch. I’m not gonna lie I was slightly apprehensive that this wouldn’t live up to the hype. Everybody was praising this film to the moon so I needed it to be really good otherwise I’d be bitterly disappointed (as opposed to just a bitter Lee, which is my default state).

I have to say I didn’t enjoy this. But that’s a good thing, this isn’t a film to be enjoyed. It’s supposed to frustrate and annoy you. You’re supposed to hate people a little bit. I’ve seen some people describe this as “anti-men”, it’s not, it’s “anti-rapists and people who enable rapists”, I get why some people might be confused by that and think they’re the same. I mean, they’re idiots but still.

That’s to be expected though, with a film like this you’re always going to get some negative responses from people who have completely missed the point. The biggest example of this was Variety’s review, which said Carey Mulligan wasn’t hot enough to pull the role off, describing her as looking like someone in “bad drag”. First off, Mulligan is fucking hot (and a great actress who NAILS every moment of her performance), but that’s not really the point. When she pretends to be drunk and a guy takes him back to his flat to take advantage of her, he’s not just doing that because she’s super hot. It’s not as though he’s sitting there at the bar going “hmm, she’s only a 7/10, I can rape someone better”.

The casting of the rapey fuckholes is perfect btw. They mainly consist of people who are normally known for playing likeable good guys. So when their true intentions come forth it means more. The world has this notion that rapists are all fat, disgusting, skeezy-looking men, ones who attack strangers walking alone at night. People don’t like thinking of them as “guys who knowingly take advantage of drunk women”, because if they did, it would mean they have to reevaluate their past behaviour.

That’s really what this film is, it’s about evaluating how people deal with and talk about rape victims. From the people blaming the woman for it because she was drunk, to the people who want to protect the rapist as they “don’t want to ruin their lives over a silly mistake”, to the lawyers who do their best to make the victim seem untrustworthy. They’re all things that the world is familiar with and put up with.

That’s why this film is so difficult to watch, it feels too close to home in a lot of ways. Also, outside of those (important) concepts and ideas, it does feel a bit too much like a series of scenes rather than a definitive narrative. There are moments where it could be tightened up a bit, particularly her “romance” with Bo Burnhams character. It feels rushed and ungenuine. That’s a real shame as it means that when the truth about him comes out, it doesn’t feel as crushing as it would otherwise. It should be a real “oh no, even HE is like that”, it should break you. It doesn’t, because you don’t really care about him, or them as a couple.

It’s a shame as if that was improved it would be a 10/10 film, as it is it’s just an 8/10. Still very good, but this has been a FANTASTIC year for films similar to this. Maybe if I saw it at the start of the year I’d have warmer feelings towards it. But with the memory of other films, it can’t help but feel slightly lacking. Still a great film with a killer soundtrack though.

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