Carey Mulligan goes from Weeping Angels to Avenging Angel in this new rape-revenge rom-com.
Jarring by design, Promising Young Woman follows medical school dropout Cassie (as in Casandra from Greek mythology: cursed to never be believed) as she metes out non-violent revenge on the predatory men she meets out. Seeking her own brand of justice after her best friend is raped, Cassie’s story is basically Veronica Mars on mushrooms – right down to the casting of Martian allies Chris Lowell and Max Greenfield (Piz and Leo respectively) as antagonistic bros.
In fact the entire ensemble are cleverly cast to subvert their beloved television roles, including Adam Brody (The O.C.) as a rapey creep, Alison Brie (Community) a dishonest classmate and Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights) an unconscientious school dean. Even Carey Mulligan is cast against her usually sweet type, brilliantly convincing as Scary Mulligan without losing the vulnerability that makes Cassie so compelling to watch.
The Oscar-winning screenplay by Killing Eve‘s Emerald Fennell (whose incredible name is second only to her sister’s, Coco Fennell) moves from laugh-out-loud funny to darkly disturbing in the Blink of an eye, while her mercurial direction shifts between genres but maintains a confident tone throughout. The candy-coloured production design helps deliver this consistency, alongside a sly soundtrack that features It’s Raining Men, Toxic and Paris Hilton.
Fennell succeeds where Paul Feig failed in A Simple Favor, by rooting the high-wire genre-juggling act in social reality. Hers is a modern and angry dissection of rape culture, subverting the problematic rape-revenge genre by not showing violence – until it does. Everything is carefully calculated to disrupt and unsettle, as bold and sharp as Cassie’s brightly coloured fingernails. It’s Ingrid Goes West meets American Mary, a film that winks at you down the camera before going for the jugular.