Happy Friday! I hope you’ve been having a beautiful week. Today’s recommendation is for an Oscar-winning satirical drama thriller and two other related picks.
Have a love-filled autumn weekend! 🍂 Karl
Promising Young Woman 💋
Cassie (Carey Mulligan) spends her nights punishing predatory men with her own unique brand of justice. When old college friend Ryan (Bo Burnham) comes back into her life, she hatches a plan to right the wrongs of her past. Here’s the trailer.
Promising Young Woman is a high-wire balancing act of genres — drama, comedy, and even thriller elements. The amount of thematic, tonal, and character weight that director and writer Emerald Fennell has to balance in the film—her debut—is admirable. Does it all work? Most of the time. Sometimes it gets away from her, but even when it does it’s hard to look away.
The movie, which makes a play for my heart by instituting Charli XCX’s “Boys” to great effect, opens with Cassie Thomas (Carey Mulligan) doing her best impression of me at a bar. She’s sh!tfaced, barely able to hold her head up. Watching from afar, of course, are a group of men just off of work on the prowl. Fennell captures the group like predators—which you’ll see why—stalking their prey.
One of them, however, seems like a nice guy. Jerry (Adam Brody) chastises the men for objectifying Cassie before offering to help her get home. And that seems like the plan at first, but while in the car her makes a last-minute decision to take her to his apartment. There he begins to try and have sex with her even though she’s passed out. However, he’s horrified to find out she’s not drunk.
This is what Cassie does over and over every night as a way of scaring men into never preying on women again. We dig into exactly why Cassie is doing this throughout the movie in bits and pieces, but the core is because of an incident in college where her friend Nina was raped and, as the story often terribly goes, wasn’t believed. Though it’s never said, it’s heavily implied that Nina eventually killed herself.
After a swoon-inducing meet-cute with Ryan (Bo Burnham), an old classmate, Cassie decides to finally enact revenge on the people that led to Nina’s suicide—a friend that didn’t believe her (Alison Brie), the dean of the school (Connie Britton), the lawyer who bullied her into silence (Alfred Molina), and the man who did it (Chris Lowell).
This is the point when Promising Young Woman hits its stride with a keen handle on its darkly comedic tone mixed with devilishly fun revenge thrills—the movie is broken into sections as Cassie takes them down one by one. However, what elevates the movie is the sensitive exploration of Cassie’s complex and fractured psyche. We explore her motivations and why she’s chosen the life she’s chosen—with interludes with her parents played by Clancy Brown and the legend Jennifer Coolidge and her boss Gail (Laverne Cox). She was once on track to be a doctor, but this incident threw her life off track like it does many women.
The observations about men, sexism, and the systems in place—both societal and institutional—that allow predators to often get off free are both broad and specific, giving an acute insight into the plights of being a woman in a society that doesn’t protect you. And that very ambition is admirable of Fennell.
There’s a lot of story and development to get through—and to pack it up in a glossy and entertaining experience makes it even more difficult to pull off. However, Mulligan’s performance, emotional without being overwrought and campy without being over-the-top, keeps us grounded in something real. She’s a revelation. 114 mins.
More like this…
Cam: Alice (Madeline Brewer), a young camgirl, is caught off-guard when another young woman with her exact face starts to use her account. As the thriller unfolds, she tries to find out who this imposter is and how (and why) this is happening. 95 mins. Streaming on Netflix.
Gone Girl: after Nick’s (Ben Affleck) wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) goes missing suspicion immediately falls onto him. But when he discovers Amy’s anniversary gift to him, he realizes there’s more to the story of her disappearance than meets the eye. 149 mins. Streaming on Hulu.
One trailer you should watch: Wolf 🐺
Ever wonder what would happen if someone thought they were a wolf? Probably not, but if you did this movie answers it for you. Here’s the logline:
Believing he is a wolf trapped in a human body, Jacob (George MacKay) eats, sleeps, and lives like a wolf - much to the shock of his family. When he's sent to a clinic, Jacob and his animal-bound peers are forced to undergo increasingly extreme forms of 'curative' therapies. However once he meets the mysterious Wildcat (Lily-Rose Depp), and as their friendship blossoms into an undeniable infatuation, Jacob is faced with a challenge: will he renounce his true self for love.