Why ‘Promising Young Woman’ should win Best Picture at 2021 Oscars

Issues are seldom what they appear in Promising Young Girl, each throughout the world of the film and in the best way it’s introduced to the viewers.

We open with pulsating pink-and-blue lights and a dreamy, bubblegum pop song about boy-craziness, all layered on prime of tight, slow-motion photographs of middle-aged beer guts and tucked-in khakis at the membership. Subsequent factor you recognize, the shot is not a close-up or in slo-mo and the music has pale into the background. Now this flock of center managers not appears to be like like they’re having the time of their lives a lot because the time of a random Tuesday. Briefly order, we additionally meet a drunk girl who isn’t really drunk, a Good Samaritan who is definitely a predator, and blood that’s really ketchup. At this level, we’re solely as much as the title card: an anachronistic, dripping nod to previous exploitation thrillers, which this film is definitely not.

Maybe partly due to the best way this chameleonic, tone-shifting, genre-bending movie performs with expectations, Promising Young Girl has confirmed polarizing. Some individuals adore it—sufficient to internet it 5 Academy Award nominations—whereas others hate it, and others nonetheless don’t know quite what to make of it. In the event you ask me, nonetheless—and to be clear, not one individual has—Promising Young Girl is an uncompromising cultural reset on rape tradition and a worthy contender for Best Picture of the 12 months.

Promising Young Girl, its title a play on how girls famously are usually judged on their previous whereas males are judged on their potential, is the debut characteristic movie from writer-director Emerald Fennell, beforehand greatest identified for her work as showrunner on Killing Eve season two. (Fennell can be an actor, costarring as younger Camilla Parker Bowles on The Crown, and cameo-ing in her personal movie as a beauty blogger with perception on “blowjob lips.”)


Again in 2017, Fennell delivered to Sundance a brief movie known as Careful How You Go, about girls’s potential for being scary and malevolent in numerous methods. “The premise is type of how will you wreck a stranger’s life with out touching them or threatening them or doing something sinister,” she informed the Los Angeles Times. “That felt like a . . . traditionally type of feminine means of enacting rage.”

A number of brief years later, Fennell has written and directed Promising Young Girl, a film that radiates the uncooked rage of ladies who witnessed the #MeToo motion nearly instantly get hijacked by questions of whether the #MeToo movement had gone too far. Carey Mulligan stars as Cassie, a former med scholar whose greatest good friend, Nina, fell right into a deep despair following her on-campus rape and finally killed herself. Cassie has spent the seven years since pretending to get so drunk in nightclubs that males will supply to take her house, thus offering a possibility for a teachable second. Issues change, nonetheless, when a flirtatious good friend from med faculty lets her know that Nina’s rapist, Al (Chris Lowell), is again on the town for his wedding ceremony, at which level she places collectively an overarching revenge plot.

That is the half the place I have to insist that if you happen to haven’t seen Promising Young Girl but and need to stay unspoiled, shut this tab instantly. Issues are about to get tremendous spoil-y.

All all through the movie, Cassie confronts males, and so they get enraged by it. Building staff holler at her throughout the opening credit, prompting her to cease and stare at them—which proves enraging.

“What are you staring at, can’t take a joke?” one of many males says. “F*ck you, then.”

Carey Mulligan (left) and Connie Britton in Promising Young Girl [Photo: courtesy of Focus Features]

On common, males don’t take pleasure in being confronted by girls about their very own abhorrent conduct. Not one of the many confronted males on this movie appear to take pleasure in it, anyway. The genius of Promising Young Girl, although, is that it’s a feature-length alternative for a girl (Fennell) to confront probably thousands and thousands of males about their actions in as fulfilling a means as doable, given the heavy subject material.

And confront male viewers she does.


This movie options so many various flavors of Males Who Don’t Understand They Are A part of the Downside. Most males probably perceive that Harvey Weinstein and Invoice Cosby are monsters, however not the place their associates and particularly they, themselves, fall brief as properly. Promising Young Girl doesn’t allow them to get away with it.

Fennell slyly populates her movie with eminently lovable TV and movie stars like Adam Brody, Sam Richardson, and Max Greenfield enjoying in opposition to kind. Properly, that’s not technically correct. For all that followers of The OC, Veep, and The New Lady know, the nice-guy sorts these actors have all performed earlier than may have been date rapists in personal with out these exhibits ever addressing it—simply as any man’s greatest good friend could be as properly.

Males will nearly invariably acknowledge a few of their associates or themselves within the conduct of this film’s jerks, particularly contemplating that one of many jerks is hiding in plain sight as Cassie’s love curiosity for a lot of the runtime. Maybe the most important tonal shift in Promising Young Girl is when it briefly turns into a romantic comedy, as Cassie enters a romantic relationship with Ryan (Bo Burnham), the previous classmate from her med faculty who lets her know that Nina’s rapist, Al, has returned to city. This interlude, after all, precedes one other tonal shift when Cassie discovers that Ryan was considered one of many dudes current when Nina was raped, and that it apparently had no influence on him at the time and even when Nina finally killed herself.

Previous to this second, Ryan had been the one man within the movie, in addition to Cassie’s father (Clancy Brown), to quietly carry the Not All Males torch. Upon nearer look, although, the indicators had been there. Ryan’s adorkable bit on his and Cassie’s first date, through which he “unwittingly” walks her again to his place at the top of the evening, carries a whiff of informal menace. He additionally appears to know that Al is a nasty man (“God assist her,” he says of Al’s fiancée when Cassie mentions the marriage), however not so unhealthy a man that he gained’t hang around with him socially.

When Cassie confronts Ryan about his presence at Nina’s rape, all he can do is defend himself (“I used to be a child!”) after which savagely insult Cassie. Fennell lulls viewers into rooting for this lone good man amongst a parade of fakes, solely to disclose that he, too, is one thing of a faux. And he or she does so in a means that forces males to interrogate themselves about whether or not something in their very own pasts would possibly put them in league with a few of these hideous males.

The revelation about Ryan arrives simply earlier than the film hits its peak-divisive ultimate 20 minutes.

Laverne Cox in Promising Young Girl [Photo: Merie Weismiller Wallace/Focus Features]

Whereas the trailer left it to the viewer’s creativeness what sort of violent revenge Cassie exacts on the lads she goes house with, up till this level it seems to be cold. Though we by no means decipher her color-coded system for tallying up every conquest in a pocket book, from what we do see, she appears extra bent on inflicting psychological carnage. That’s actually what she does to the ladies from her previous—together with the dean (Connie Britton) who didn’t take Nina’s case significantly sufficient.

When Cassie lastly will get to Al—drugging a complete bachelor get together within the guise of a rainbow-wigged nurse to get there—she’s prepared to essentially get her arms soiled. She approaches a handcuffed-to-the-bed Al, wielding a scalpel with the intent of carving Nina’s title throughout his physique. Simply as she is getting began, although, he manages to loosen one hand and is ready to overpower her. It’s all of the leverage he wants. Quickly sufficient, he has a pillow over Cassie’s face and a knee clamped over it, slowly suffocating her for 2 grueling minutes. Viewers weaned on typical motion pictures know to count on her hand to alight on some makeshift weapon and break away. Not this time; Cassie is lifeless.

In the course of the movie’s first take a look at screening, two viewers members got into a shouting match throughout this scene, with considered one of them yelling, “In the event you don’t prefer it, you don’t have to remain!” It was a reasonably correct precursor to how the viewers at massive appears to really feel concerning the matter. But it surely was the one ending Fennell may see for Cassie.

“It’s how the system works. The home at all times wins,” the director told Entertainment Weekly. “For me, it will be an unlimited injustice to be so sincere the entire means via this film after which have a Hollywood ending that additionally allow us to all off the hook.”

Initially, the movie ended just after Cassie’s death, with Al and his good friend Joe (Max Greenfield) burning her physique within the woods. Fennell’s financiers balked at such a bleak finale, nonetheless, so she went again to the drafting board. After briefly entertaining the concept of Cassie killing everybody at Al’s bachelor get together as a substitute, she settled on the eventual ending of Cassie having a fail-safe in place that alerts authorities to her homicide, together with newly uncovered proof that Al raped Nina.


The film ends with the police raiding Al’s wedding ceremony, and a few extraordinarily well-timed prescheduled textual content messages to Ryan’s telephone. Whereas some critics have taken issue with the truth that it’s the police who save the day, the one cause the system appears to prevail is that Cassie does all of the work for it and even has to die to make it occur. It’s not the system’s triumph, it’s Cassie’s—even when she’s not round to understand it.

After all, judging by what we’ve simply seen, there was in all probability by no means a contented ending within the playing cards for Cassie anyway. Whether or not or not she should have finished issues in another way, in the end her life was ruined by Al’s rape of Nina. The toll this complete revenge plot has taken on Cassie is telegraphed all through the film properly earlier than her demise. And neither Nina’s suicide nor Cassie’s survivor’s guilt at all times issue into selections that the real-world equivalents of Britton’s dean are likely to make about whether or not to wreck a promising younger man’s life over a rape allegation.

After utilizing excessive ways to make the fictional dean see how her priorities have been toxic, Cassie says to her, “I assume you simply wanted to consider it in the suitable means.”

Promising Young Girl is an entertaining, difficult film that can hopefully experience a Best Picture win to make the widest viewers doable take into consideration rape tradition in the suitable means.