This review is being republished to advertise the home video release of Promising Young Woman, available March 16, 2021.
The pit of my stomach gurgled and twisted within the opening 15 minutes of Promising Young Woman, and yet, I wouldn’t dare look away.
This intense, disturbing meditation on rape culture and the art of preying on pretty, young, drunk girls is one of the most harrowing but necessary films made in the last decade.
Carey Mulligan is an otherworldly force as Cassandra, oft-terrifying with a sensitive streak underneath. Cassie stalks the night, heads into bars and undoubtedly, some good samaritan brings her out of the bar, high heels in her hand as she drunkenly stumbles into their car.
They bring her home, and they should get Cassie a two-litre of water, put a blanket on her and call it a night. But, like a reverberating bass beat that constantly makes the same vibration, they always take it one step too far.
Then, when they think she’s at her most vulnerable, Cassie’s reveal leaves everyone – audience included – awestruck. She’s not been drunk the entire time. But now she knows what these men – and there are too many – would have done if her defences were down.
One frat boy at a time, she teaches lessons to her would-be attackers, but when she meets a man who’s the opposite of what she’s come to expect, she wonders whether she should reconcile her tragic past and stop her vengeful ways.
Mulligan gives a masterclass here, and comedian Bo Burnham is also pretty incredible. Laverne Cox gives a fantastic supporting turn as Cassie’s cafe boss, and Adam Brody, Max Greenfield and other stars make interesting appearances.
This is not a joyful, spirited holiday film. But it touches on a topic that’s so important right now, and I can’t recommend enough that you see it.