Promising Young Woman is the perfect film that exists in the minds of imperfect people trying to make sense of the world. Many detractors are quick to slap them with the SJW brush, but I think it goes beyond that. After all, wanting to change the world isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s the endless lectures, grandstanding, performative bullshit and other theatrics that makes it so easy to hate those people. But, what happens when a film uses those trappings to its benefit?
Carey Mulligan is an amazing actress, but she plays almost too well into the film. Promising Young Woman is a fantasy for young people trying to make sense of a foul world. Does that mean it has to have all the answers? Well, did Death Wish? Powerless people gaining the means to seek justice and correct the ills of the world shouldn’t be lost on a comic obsessed culture. Such efforts formed the basis of every costumed vigilante we love and put up dumb billboards to attempt to resurrect.
Writer/Director Emerald Fennell knocks out that goal in her script. But, some will attempt to project their views into a direct take about misplaced anger. It’s in that effort I think Promising Young Woman says the most about the world it is trying to capture on film. You can lose yourself in the pursuit of protecting your community. If you see others like you, it’s easy to assume they are you. Where that identity ends and begins is a tricky thing that Cassie struggled to pin down.
While watching Promising Young Woman, it made me wonder why no modern film can commit to a I Spit On Your Grave level. That’s not gore for gore’s sake, but it’s a victim engaging horror with horror. It’s about recognizing that anger and vile in your gut and spewing it forth into a collapsing world. It’s odd that we can’t engage that part of our cinematic selves anymore.
This is what happens when exploitation topics become part of the mainstream. Especially a mainstream that is coming to terms with how they treat the world and what that means when history crashes into the present. Some will see it as people weeping at disconnected injustice, while others will view the detached ignorance. All the while, the casual viewers will just want to see something funny or shocking. Even the best messages have to have spectacle of some sort.
Still, I don’t see how you can ding such an interesting movie with a stellar cast. The spectacle comes with the flashy costume and candy colored set design of The City. We all know it’s somewhere in California with California problems trying to relate to people through a filter. But, does it matter if people can take something away from it? I don’t know how I feel about it.
Watching Promising Young Woman find a fanbase among younger viewer is energizing. But, is it necessarily the best film available in 2020? I’d say No, but it doesn’t matter. Film is art and art isn’t a competition. It’s a long running history of shared experience coming together to show us something better in ourselves.
Promising Young Woman didn’t impress me on the same level as other 2020 films. But, it made an impact. If this is the movie that gets any young woman interested in film, then it was worth the effort. I just didn’t totally hang with the ending. But, that’s a complaint for another time.