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‘Promising Young Woman’ (review)

A stylish, candy-colored revenge thriller with a razor-blade center, Promising Young Woman stars Carey Mulligan in a career-best performance.

She plays 30-something Cassie, who pretends to be falling-down drunk at clubs, then lets herself get picked up by “helpful” men, who are more than willing to take advantage of her inebriated state.

She waits until they’ve taken her back to their place and revealed themselves as opportunistic predators before pulling the rug out from them: She’s stone cold sober.

Maybe they’ll think twice about preying on vulnerable women in the future, especially since she tells one of her marks there’s another woman who does this kind of thing — only she carries a pair of scissors.

Her secret nocturnal revenge, which leaves the men shaken but unharmed, takes a new direction when she runs into Ryan (Bo Burnham), who went to medical school with her.

There’s an immediate attraction between them, but, more importantly, it puts her back in touch with the people who created the tragedy that derailed her life. Her best friend Nina was raped by a fellow student and (presumably) killed herself after everyone wrote off the incident because Nina was drunk at the time.

Cassie calmly finds a unique way to terrify each person from her past, who have excuse after excuse about why they didn’t help or believe Nina.

Meanwhile, she and Ryan are growing closer and closer. And then things take a turn.

To say more would be to ruin one of the year’s best movies, which is the first feature film from Killing Eve producer Emerald Fennell.

In one of the most striking scenes (pardon the pun), Cassie stops her car at an intersection, ready with a crowbar for the misogynistic jerk who stops to yell insults at her. The scene is set to music from Wagner’s tragic opera Tristan and Isolde, but even in scenes with songs by Britney Spears or Paris Hilton, the movie is in full operatic mode.

Like all good revenge thrillers, it asks when enough is enough and who should pay for the damage done.

Even Nina’s mother (Molly Shannon) asks her to let go of the hate that has consumed her all these years, but Cassie is too close to her goal now to stop.

It’s a film that will likely leave you nearly as shaken as one of Cassie’s marks.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

* * * * *

Produced by Margot Robbie, Josey McNamara, Tom Ackerley,
Ben Browning, Ashley Fox, Emerald Fennell
Written and Directed by Emerald Fennell
Starring Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, Clancy Brown, Jennifer Coolidge,
Laverne Cox, and Connie Britton, Adam Brody as Jerry, Max Greenfield,
Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Sam Richardson, Alfred Molina, Molly Shannon

 

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