Friday, January 15, 2021

Promising Young Woman


Cassandra Thomas (Carey Mulligan) is someone many considered to be a promising young woman. Being one of the best students in med school, everyone expected her to graduate on top of her class and become a doctor. That changed when an unfortunate incident led to her dropping out. Flash forward seven years later, she now works at a coffee shop and still resides with her parents who are starting to get concerned about her future. She also frequents bars on a weekly basis pretending to be too drunk to function and waiting for a nice guy to take her home, many of whom end up trying to take advantage of her. Her modus operandi and raison d’être are put to the test with the arrival of Dr. Ryan Cooper (Bo Burnham), a classmate of hers back in the day who is keen on dating her now. Will she take a detour or continue dwelling on the past and carry on with her revenge plot?

Most of the criticisms directed at Mulligan is that either she is too old for the role or Margot Robbie is more suitable for it. Most of them have probably not even seen the film because Mulligan’s Cassie is on fire here, no pun intended. And no, there is no such thing as being too old to suffer from trauma and to deal with it in an unusual way. Robbie serves as executive producer and maybe many see her in the role because of that scene in the trailer where Cassie seems to be pulling off a Harley Quinn with her rainbow wig and vinyl nurse costume. We will never know if Robbie would have been a better choice, but why fix something that isn’t broken in the first place?

While the comments on various YouTube videos with clips from the film as well as its trailer are laden with polarizing commentaries, Mulligan’s performance as well as Fennell’s direction are almost unanimously well-received. With the former already getting nominations and some wins left and right in the early film critics circuit, one would be surprised if she does not get her second Oscar nomination for this role, a decade after her first. A win would be difficult, though, given the plethora of acting showcases this year. Even then, a nomination snub would be total injustice.

As for the polarizing reviews, there are basically two sides to it: 1) Those who think that this is nothing more than a feminazi agenda, men are evil and women should rule the world; and 2) Those who believe that the unconventional dark comedy approach pays off by exposing the current social system in place that protects promising young men from being punished for the harassment or rape of promising young women. Your opinion of the material depends on where you stand. The thing that people seem to be missing is that the film is not really obliging you to take a side.

Promising Young Woman is basically just opening up a conversation and adding to the discourse of rape culture in many societies, as well as the privilege of “promising young men” in America, often used as an excuse to not make them answerable to a crime they have committed. The mere fact that the movie is fostering such discussion means that it has accomplished its task. Instead of reducing the issue to a simple battle of the sexes, which it is not, perhaps we should redirect our attention to the social systems in place that allow people to: rape people; as well as falsely accuse people of rape. If we talk about it now, maybe the next generation would no longer have to. One social ill down the drain, right?

And now, that shock ending that did not sit well with some people. I have to admit that such a violent climax totally caught me off-guard. Watching the trailers, you already form some theories as to where this narrative is eventually headed to, which is why when they drop that bomb on you, you just don’t know how to react. Once you recover from it after a minute or two, you will come to the realization that they needed such plot device to serve justice to the story as well as poetic justice to the plot. Some will dismiss it as convenient writing for the sake of plot development, but the shock and awe approach does drive its message home.

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