A woman at a bar looking very drunk, fell on her chair and could barely lift her head, when she was noticed by three regular men. One of them, played by Adam Brody, walks up to him with, he told himself, with the best of intentions. He’s in trouble. He is a “good guy”. And if he didn’t bring her home safely, the bad guys might do something terrible to her. Something he would never do, of course. And, of course, when he helped her home, he suggested they go to her apartment first. Even though he was barely conscious, he started kissing her and then moved to the bed. And that’s when he realized that not only was he not drunk, but he wasn’t a good man either.
to reveal that their own perception of their moral code is a form of denial. criminals over accusers. Cassie tried to dismantle the systems one by one.
Two events prompted Cassie to rethink her strategy. First, she is reunited with an old classmate named Ryan (Bo Burnham), and the two start dating. Burnham and Mulligan have great chemistry, and Fennell isn’t in a rush in a courtship, making it feel even more sincere and believable that Cassie will let her guard down for the first time in a long time. However, Ryan also reveals that the man who sent Cassie in this spiral of grief and trauma returned to the United States after spending time in London. This prompts Cassie to end her studies of male privilege and moral authority, eventually going after the people who helped destroy her best friend.
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Trauma often creates mood swings and decision-making, and Mulligan and Fennel never forget that Cassie is a traumatized person, taking her pain away from the patriarchal system that made it possible. This is a film about a woman looking for a catharsis she will never find. Look at the notebooks with the names of the boys who were taught the lesson—there are dozens of them. And there’s a feeling that even going straight to the people causing this pain can only do so much, which is then enhanced by an intense final act.
And give me one that makes a film that doesn’t just use trauma as emotional manipulation or put women in danger as a cheesy writing trick. She works in a coffee shop and has supportive parents, but every day is filled with memories of what she lost. He sat at night looking at pictures of his best friends when they were young. We often see excessive trauma and sadness in films as character traits that are clean and tidy. but I think the “PYW” tonal whiplash captures something about the inconsistency of this issue better than most films even try to do. Cassie is brilliant and beautiful, but she can’t help but fight against a system that protects bad men in any way she can, even if the fight leaves her locked in a box of her own design.
What’s funny is that this all might make “Promising Young Woman” sound more intense than it really is. There’s a lot of dark humor in this film, which makes sense from the showrunner’s second season of “Killing Eve,” and really solid relationship drama for some of it. Burnham proved he could pull off a film like this, take hold of his own opponent Mulligan, and do some nasty lip-synchronizing work on classic pop music. As for Mulligan, he’s phenomenal again. He almost always does. Cassie is a particularly tough part, the kind that would deter other actresses from pushing into the camp and the kind of balancing act that people would scoff at.
In light of the next day, the many problems I had with the “Promising Young Woman” almost felt like power now. I’m not sure the ending, and some of the pitch jumps could have been perfected, but there’s so much film here to unpack and discuss. Even at Sundance, many films are lost from memory on the way to the next screening. Not this one. Not for long.
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