Promising younger girl finally ends up declaring: The fact of vengeance
Promising young woman don't want you to be comfortable.
In many ways, the movie tells you what it is from the start. You think you're looking at how the story will go with a certain expectation, an educated guess, and then the script pulls the rug out from under you when you least expect it and makes you struggle to bring it all together, what you did I was just watching and repeating everything in your head for clues as to where everything could have gone sideways.
Warning: spoilers for promising young women inside.
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Some of it could very well be a product of marketing; when the first trailer for Emerald FennellHis twisted debut hit screamed everything about feminine catharsis and the promise of repayment, from the acutely puncturing string cover of Britney Spears' "Toxic" to the frequent cuts of its main character Cassandra "Cassie" Thomas (Carey Mulligan) Track any man she misbehaves as anything other than simple numbers in a journal. Cassie, it seems, is on a mission clad in bright wigs, rainbow nail polish, and expertly applied lipstick, but inwardly driven by smoldering anger and a desire to take revenge on mistakes made, prompting her to drop out of medical school. However, upon viewing the film itself, the plot reveals that Cassie's actions are driven by the need not to seek revenge – but by someone else.
The rape vengeance trope has permeated the media over the years, especially horror, but has become notoriously popular and somewhat more infamous after the release of films such as I spit on your grave There's a lot that intersects these films with the concept of vigilantism – only in that particular subgenre does the heroine survive and endure her own vengeance on those who directly trauma against her rather than serving as a prop for driving a man led Vengeance in her name. Recent rape revenge offers like the aptly named 2017 revenge Put her leadership through both the emotional and physical wringer before ultimately positioning her as victor over the men who most deserve her form of retribution. In the case of Promising Young Woman, however, it could be argued that this film could be ranked closer to the revenge of rape. Cassie serves as an avenging angel for someone who cannot seek their own justice – Nina, her best friend who died of suicide after the trauma of being raped by one of her classmates (an event that happened with several other witnesses and was later released by the school administration).
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Cassie's strategy is carefully planned and in some cases it seems almost foolproof. She walks into a bar, presents herself in one of several possible forms, pretending to be drunk or otherwise drunk, and then waits for the right nice guy to come up to her and help her get home. What makes these scenes even more impactful is how they work at the meta level as well. When it comes to the casting of the film, it's especially brilliant to give these roles to well-known actors, mostly known for playing nerdy, nondescript characters in other media. Nobody would expect this kind of predatory behavior from Seth Cohen (Adam Brody) or Piz (Chris Lowell) or even freak out McLovin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), but there's an additional level of genius in installing these youthful pop culture faces as much more sinister characters. Mulligan turns out to be a shrewd and crafty opponent to everyone, and this movie is hers from start to finish. In the first scene with Brody's character, which is similar in the trailer, she looks at the ceiling (and the camera) with a grin and breaks the fourth wall for a second to signal to the audience that we are now with her.
Contrary to what the trailer might imply, however, Cassie's approach is not violence, but manipulation. Your goal is not to kill any of these men or to subject them to a tortuous fate, but rather to have them look inward to examine their own discomfort after being fought by a girl who is not as easy to capture as she is might have believed at first. But in the same way the script traces their slow descent into darker places; just as she is pondering the possibility of a new love with a seemingly decent man, Ryan (Bo Burnham) she is portrayed as increasingly addicted to her own vengeance mission, almost unable to take a night off her patterns. When Cassie learns that the man who raped Nina, Alexander Monroe (Lowell), is preparing for his upcoming wedding, she decides to target people who she believes played their own role in Nina's death have and methodically target former classmates as well as the dean of their alma mater. But while the film would initially lead you to believe that it is preparing them for gastrointestinal trauma, it turns out that Cassie's primary goal is to just give these people a taste of what they will witness as their own best friend experienced years after she was raped so that they could experience even the shortest dose of fear and panic that Nina visited that hellish night.
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For a while, even Cassie gets distracted from her goals; a visit to Nina's mother (Molly Shannon) leads to older woman telling Cassie that she has to shed the weights she's been carrying since Nina's death, that anything she could do now won't be good for her in the long run. It's a vague premonition, but one Cassie ultimately ignores it when she discovers that her new boyfriend, Ryan, was one of the people who was there the night Nina was raped – and there is video evidence to prove it . From that moment on, it is clear that Cassie feels absolutely impossible to trust anyone, even as she prepares for her ultimate confrontation with Monroe herself.
The conclusion will undoubtedly be one of the most controversial plot points among viewers. Whether or not you think it succeeded in its goals is more a case of personal taste, but there is no denying that Fennell makes a bold statement about what happens when Cassie shows up at Monroe's bachelorette party dressed as a stripper. Knocking out the rest of the male partiers with alcohol gives her the opportunity to be alone with the future groom. But an apparent turn of fate and a pair of flimsy handcuffs are enough for Monroe to break free before Cassie can carry out her plan of carving Nina's name on his stomach, overpowering her, and suffocating her with a pillow. It's worth noting that this is the only time Cassie personally attempts a more physical form of repayment, only to tragically reverse that attempt. Her abandonment of her earlier psychological methods for something tangible turns out to be her downfall, but the real tragedy is that her death is treated almost as a consequence of her actions – something her killer, the male friend who helps dispose of her body Any other man she has ever opposed believes he is immune to it.
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It seems unfair to call the ending a bait and switch, even though the film has been marketed to audiences when the bitter truth is that for many women this is just a reality – a depressing pill to swallow, but one that maybe we should Strive to come to terms with the fact that we may have to struggle with it, because often violence is not only regularly perpetrated against white women, but in much larger numbers against women of the same color, trans women, women from indigenous communities. Women with far fewer privileges and fewer resources.
The biggest blow of the film that has been with me since my first viewing is that Cassie's death, when it happens, is the result of a brutal whim, a pure instinct, a spontaneous decision regardless of any long-term implications. Even if there is a catharsis in vengeance that she can do from beyond, it is vengeance that she still had to arrange as a coincidence, and it was at the expense of her name, which was put on the list of victims, their lives was ruined by the justified of us who only go through the world with themselves. With Promising Young Woman, Fennell gave us the contradicting and sobering notion that women have to plan just in case, but men can kill without a second thought.
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About the author
(2 articles published)
Carly Lane is an Atlanta-based writer who considers herself a lifelong Star Wars fan, newbie trekker, die-hard romance reader, aspiring horror lover, and Wynonna Earp tweeter. She is a former editor for SYFY FANGRRLS and has also written for Nerdist, Teen Vogue, Den of Geek, Motherboard, The Toast, and others on the internet.
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