Promising Young Woman is the movie on everyone’s lips right now, with the critical acclaim to back it up.
The feature debut from writer-director Emerald Fennell has racked up a string of awards, including an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay (along with nominations for Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress for its star Carey Mulligan) and BAFTAs for Best Original Screenplay and Outstanding British Film.
Showcasing some of the smartest filmmaking we’ve seen for a while, Fennell uses every creative decision to convey the messages of the movie, from the costumes to a soundtrack you’ll want to have on repeat.
If you’ve been eager to see it, good news: you can stream this Sky Original with a NOW Cinema Membership. Here are all the reasons Promising Young Woman is the movie to put at the top of your must-see list – and why there’s more to it than meets the eye.
A nightmare storyline that makes you think
Promising Young Woman is billed as a tale of revenge, but this chilling movie is so much more than that. Yes, we see Carey Mulligan destroying the lives of scumbags, but it’s also a comment on gender inequality and a patriarchal society where men hold the power.
The plot centres on Cassie (Mulligan), a former medical school student who dropped out in the wake of her best friend’s rape and later suicide. Yet nothing in Cassie’s life is what it appears to be.
To the outside world, she seems stuck in a rut, and she’s often underestimated by others. However, she’s smart enough to turn it to her advantage. By day she’s an ordinary, if rude, barista; by night she teaches ‘nice guys’ that they’re not so nice after all. An unexpected encounter is about to give Cassie a chance to right the wrongs of the past.
Though we’d hesitate to brand anything as a ‘#MeToo’ movie, Promising Young Woman deftly explores the themes of vulnerability, consent, responsibility and more with devastating accuracy – all while being an incredibly entertaining watch.
Award-worthy acting and clever casting
One of the most surprising aspects of Promising Young Woman is the casting. For Fennell, tapping an A-list cast was about more than just attracting eyeballs to the movie – it also uses our preconceptions to shock and surprise us.
Mulligan’s performance as Cassie is so compelling that it’s no surprise she was Oscar-nominated for the role. She walks the fine line between provoking empathy and shock, making us root for her search for justice but uncomfortable at her questionable methods.
Mulligan isn’t the only actor worthy of note; Bo Burnham turns in an incredible performance as supposed ‘nice guy’ Ryan – Cassie’s love interest – breaking and mending your heart at the same time.
Fennell’s casting of the other ‘innocent’ men Cassie exacts revenge upon is also smart and subversive. These seemingly ‘nice guys’ include our safe and nostalgic on-screen crushes – Adam Brody (The OC), Max Greenfield (New Girl) and Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Superbad) – who we’ve come to love for their innocent characters.
The initial warmth you feel at seeing these familiar faces is completely upended as Fennell transforms these men into snakes in the grass who use their nice-guy personalities to take advantage of Cassie. Worst of all, they see nothing wrong with their behaviour, and that’s what makes this story so scary.
A smart, sinister soundtrack
Promising Young Woman’s soundtrack is another element of the movie that works subconsciously to defy our expectations. More than a nostalgic trip through the best noughties pop, it’s a bold, in-your-face reclamation of music that’s not taken seriously by critics and so-called ‘real’ music fans.
Featuring tracks by OG It Girl Paris Hilton and the undeniable queen of pop Britney Spears, it’s clear that the soundtrack is more than just background noise. In particular, the ratcheted tension in the string rendition of Britney’s Toxic is a bull-in-a-china-shop of a metaphor. Toxic becomes not only a rallying cry for women who’ve been mistreated by toxic men, but also a fun-house mirror that reflects the theme of underestimated women taking back control, as we’ve seen Britney and Paris do.
The music helps to explore Cassie’s slowly unravelling state of mind, becoming more tense and twisted as her plan picks up speed. It also flips the script on our perception of those songs, and the culture at large that Cassie is trying to bring to justice, by setting them to scenes where we see men get what’s been coming to them.
Outstanding costumes and makeup
It’s not only the soundtrack that offers a glimpse into the inner goings-on of Cassie’s mind. Her costumes, hair and makeup offer clues as to the kind of Cassie we’re about to encounter.
Nancy Steiner is the costume designer responsible for Cassie’s wardrobe – full of fluff, pink and pastels while at home, seeing Ryan or working at the coffee shop. Later on, Cassie turns up the voltage with sequin body-con dresses, heels and classic noughties pale lips – a look deliberately designed to attract attention.
This wardrobe also serves as battle armour. When Cassie seeks revenge on the person who ruined her, and her best friend’s, life, she dons a rainbow wig and a sexy nurse outfit. By putting on a costume that is stereotypically sexualised and associated with acts of submission, Cassie takes the stereotype of a girl up for anything to her advantage and subverts it through her eventual actions.
Cassie’s costumes turn the tables on what men expect of her and who she really is. And that’s exactly why we root for her.
Stream Promising Young Woman with a NOW Cinema Membership
Welcome to NOW. Stream world-class entertainment
This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io