Since its release last Christmas, Promising Young Woman has both divided and intrigued viewers. Earning five Academy Award nominations, the movie follows Cassandra (Carey Mulligan), a medical school dropout who avenges her best friend’s rape by tracking down men that take advantage of inebriated women. Written, produced, and directed by Emerald Fennell (who plays Camilla in The Crown) in her feature film debut, Promising Young Woman asks timely questions about sexual assault, consent, and revenge.
"I wanted to write a movie that reflected this thing that we all grew up with, which was that getting girls drunk in order to ‘seduce them’—seduce in inverted commas—was kind of normal. It was in every comedy and girls’ bodies were something to be won, almost by any means necessary,” Fennell told Vogue. “I’d been thinking about that for a while and then I thought about this scene of a girl drunk on a bed who was saying, ‘What are you doing’ to the person undressing her. Then, she sits up sober, and says, ‘What are you doing?’ At that moment, I knew what this was going to be.”
The film is nominated for five Oscars: Best Picture, Best Director (Fennell), Best Actress (Mulligan), Best Original Screenplay (Fennell), and Best Film Editing.
What are critics saying?
The response to the film has been mixed. While critics praised the strength of Carey Mulligan’s performance, people found the revenge plot to be implausible and overwrought. The New York Times described the film as “a hard candy with a sour center” that “turns sociopathy into a style and trauma into a joke.” Other critics have found the film’s audacity charming. A Vox review thought the main character’s fixation on revenge was quite invigorating, writing: “Could we find pleasure in watching a vindictive woman force men to face the pain they’re capable of inflicting? The answer is a resounding yes.”