I have two goals for reviewing Promising Young Woman: not spoiling anything and avoiding hyperbole. It’s important because this is likely going to be one of the year’s best films. Shit. Okay I have one goal and that’s not spoiling anything.
Let’s start there. Promising Young Woman is a rare Sundance title that has already released a trailer. That trailer is fine. Stick with it. They will eventually release other trailers that reveal the film’s real plot. Skip those. Promising Young Woman is not quite about a lady who pretends to be pass-out drunk so she can murder the would-be rapists who drag her home. It’s sort of about that, but the scope of the plot dwarves that synopsis. Having said that, go ahead and just pretend that’s all the film is and let yourself be pleasantly surprised when it comes out in April. It’s not that long a wait and it’ll be worth it I promise.
So I won’t discuss the plot. But I can describe the film. Promising Young Woman is a full entertainment experience. It’s witty, scary, triumphant, heartbreaking, romantic and mean as hell but not at the cost of its own vulnerability. It’s broad and doesn’t care about being on the nose since it’s a polemic, not some sly satire. This film is angry and it yells. If you watch it with a guy who doesn’t yell with, keep an eye on him. If you watch it with a guy who overdoes the yelling, keep him in your sights as well. Just keep your eyes on all men.
The real movies we remember arrive as if answering some call we didn’t even know was out there. Promising Young Woman feels calibrated for 2020 in a way that could only be genuine. It isn’t breaking its back to be edgy or push buttons in an arbitrary effort to appear hip. Its jokes, its anger, its needle drops, its aesthetic… from top to bottom this is a thoroughly awake film that simply excites the audience with every new scene.
And then there’s the cast. The film obviously belongs to Carey Mulligan. Already duly respected for her past work, this role is going to define her whole career, not just because she’s great in it, and not just because the film itself is so good, but also because her various looks are iconic. I think her Cassie will present pop culture with an enduring new hero.
But she’s also supported by a wealth of talent. Every new role is filled with a great actor, from Clancy Brown and Jennifer Coolidge as Cassie's parents to Alison Brie to Connie Britton to Molly Shannon to a truly remarkable assembly of douchebag dude actors.
It’s not news that women are treated like shit in this country. And it’s not news that female victims are typically only made to endure further suffering when trying to bring those who hurt them to a justice they’ll likely be shielded from anyway. As a society, we simply do not care until it affects someone we know. Promising Young Woman aims to create that bridge of empathy. But also, you know, be a blast to watch.
I can’t wait for this movie to come out. I can’t wait to see it again with more people. I can’t wait to discuss it. And - I can’t believe I’m saying this - but I can’t wait to see the discourse hit Twitter on this one. That weekend is going to be something else.