Say hello to Carey Mulligan, your 2020 Best Actress, for her unpredictable, deliciously wild role in the ambitious crime-drama, "Promising Young Woman."
First-time writer/director Emerald Fennell aims for the fences and hits a definitive home run with "Promising Young Woman." In the opening scene, a group of guys at a bar notice a woman who is passing out, alone and waaaaaay past the point of just "being drunk." One of them tries talking to her, helps her up, gets her a cab and then they end up in a bedroom together. Right as the man is about to take advantage of the young woman, her eyes come into focus and look into the camera, a smirk shows on her face. She's not inebriated after all, and in fact, her trap worked perfectly. She is the one in control. She quickly turns the tables, and with that, turns the audience on its head.
The promising young woman is Cassandra (Mulligan), now working as a barista at a coffee shop, secretly moonlighting to seek revenge on what seems to be the entire male species in an attempt to right a wrong done to her in her past. We see her lure "victim" after "victim," each of them being preyed upon for just reasons.
Cassandra then meets Ryan (Bo Burnham), who notices her at the coffee shop and strikes her as unusual. He's not quite like the others, and it fascinates her. It doesn't stop her from the mission at hand, but it does end up complicating things.
Mulligan is just stunning in the role...it's a tour de force performance where you simply cannot take your eyes off of her in every single scene that she's in...and she's in nearly every frame of the film. Mulligan is gifted with a clever script from Emerald Fennell and dialogue that is both natural, insightful and often times darkly funny. The ways that Cassandra and Ryan rip on one another will feel very familiar to those that are in relationships and that don't consider themselves romantic in the least. There is also a juicy, powerful scene and performance featuring Alfred Molina, when an encounter with Cassandra finally doesn't go the way she planned.
Oh, but not for the last act of the film. Fennell ultimately ends up with a great concept for a character, but can't quite stick the landing when it comes to concluding her story. Things get a bit too implausible, and a bit too contrived towards the end, so much so that it severely undercuts what had come before.
"Promising Young Woman" would have been one of the very best films of the year, if not for the wrap-up. But even with its flaws, this movie - and Mulligan's performance - is sure to knock you out, for real.
Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama.
Run Time: 1 hour 53 minutes.
Starring: Carey Mulligan, Laverne Cox, Bo Burnham, Adam Brody, Sam Richardson, Clancy Brown, Jennifer Coolidge.
Written and Directed by Emerald Fennell (feature-film debut)
"Promising Young Woman" is available on VOD on Christmas Day, 2020.
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