Sunday, February 2, 2020

Sundance with Abe: Promising Young Woman

I’m thrilled to be attending and covering the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah for the seventh time. I’m seeing as many movies as I can each day and will post reviews of each as I can, as well as video reviews uploaded to YouTube.

Promising Young Woman
Directed by Emerald Fennell

No matter how much may have changed over the past few centuries or even decades, men still have a distinct advantage over women in America and the world as a whole. A patriarchal society has led to the exclusion of women from certain male-dominated industries and types of activities, which in turn prevent those who have managed to get in from ascending to leadership positions and even having the opportunity to learn about them. This is a disturbing and alarming truth, and it’s a logical inspiration for a film about someone who isn’t content with letting men off the hook, particularly those who don’t think they’re all that bad.

Cassie (Carey Mulligan) leads a seemingly unremarkable life as a thirty-year-old barista living at home with her parents after dropping out of medical school years earlier. She spends her nights, however, going to bars and pretending to be drunk so that she can eviscerate the men who bring her home under the guise of helping her and then try to take advantage of her. When she runs into Ryan (Bo Burnham), a medical school classmate who asks her out, she is reminded of the many people who put her on this path who she needs to ensure are made unquestionably aware that the way they have acted and continue to act is not acceptable.

This film gets off to a biting start with its opening scene, which features shots of men dancing in khakis, framed the way that women are often used as eye candy. From there, Cassie delights in faking confusion and inebriation and then terrifying whatever man was unlucky enough to have taken her home so that he will forever feel ashamed of himself. It’s a very effective formula, one that leads to plenty of humor in the way that it exposes depravity and the lengths men will go to in order to justify their actions as superior to someone else’s who would have done worse.

Mulligan, who got her big break when “An Education” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival eleven years ago, delivers a tour de force performance as Cassie, playing each scene differently as it best suits her to make her point. It’s an extraordinary turn, one that should hopefully bring her back into the awards spotlight. The rest of the ensemble is well-cast, including Burnham, but none hold a candle to Mulligan. This extremely entertaining, entirely captivating film is much more than a revenge thriller. In her feature film debut, “Killing Eve” writer Emerald Fennell has crafted a scathing satire that works on every level and never fails to enthrall.


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