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Promising Young Woman (2020)

Genre: Thriller/Drama

Rating: 4.5/5

An Important Confrontation on an Unfortunate Status Quo

The “P” in Promising Young Woman stands for Powerful. This film was very strong and honest with its message and held back no punches. This film follows a 30 year old, former Med School Genius, on a journey to avenge the rape of her best friend who has since passed away. This film is timely because the conversation around sexual assault is prevalent in today’s media, but it’s also unfortunately an old tale. This has been happening for longer than society will admit, and I think this film shows that well.

The plot of this film makes a lot of sense. I mean that in comparison to other films. Sometimes I watch movies and I think, “why is this happening right now in this person’s life? Is it only happening because this is the age of the character and the season you want the movie to take place?” Essentially… Well, Promising Young Woman establishes it’s lead character, Cassie and after a convincing inciting incident, the rest of the film is very much so motivated by that. It is very clear why Cassie is doing what she is doing now. An opportunity has presented itself in the film and her plan can now go into action. It’s not random or just manufactured. That’s a really good starting point, because you can focus on what’s happening without wondering why it’s happening at that time.

I’m not going to go into spoilers because you really need to watch this film. This film talks about feminism and condemns rape culture in not only college, but the entire world. The film is very strong at convincing us that “this guy is different” just to subvert that. That’s expressing to the audience how the character feels. We feel the same in a way. Maybe this guy is actually nice, until he’s not. Not to say this film is one that says “all men are evil”, not at all. This film is strict on its message but also allows space for growth and forgiveness. An interesting topic that comes up into the film is about men accused of sexual assault should be “innocent until proven guilty” the age old American value, that apparently we as Americans value so much that it trumps a victim’s experience. What I take from this movie is that, not only is defending abusers as culpable as being the abuser themselves, but treating the abuser as innocent until proven guilty, treats the victim as guilty before proven innocent/victim. It’s an interesting issue because by assuming the accused is innocent, you assume the victim is guilty of lying. Lying about such accusations is horrible, but rather than defending the accused person as innocent, these cases need to be handled with extreme care and all the honest evidence needs to be acquired in order to decipher the truth. Assuming the accused is innocent allows the accused to fight a war against the victim, which is explained in Promising Young Woman through an emotional testimony from an old lawyer.

From some reviews that I have read online, Cassie is not taken completely seriously because of her “crazy” behavior. The lengths and sometimes how low she goes in order to achieve revenge for her best friend. When watching this movie, take into account that all this “crazy” behavior is based off this incredible trauma that she has had to endure with a lack of justice. Even if that doesn’t add some perspective, in defense of the film, I wouldn’t say this film is encouraging Cassie’s behavior. This film isn’t encouraging any sort of violence or over-the-top retribution. This film is trying to make people understand their responsibility to accused people, friends, and society in general. Cassie’s “crazy” behavior often leads other characters in the film to reflect on how they handled the situation and other similar situations with Cassie’s best friend. In turn, they learn about their mistakes and can potentially learn, or change. This film wants people to realize what they might have done is a mistake, add perspective on the issue, and challenge age old ideas our society has on this issue. “She didn’t have to get that drunk” “She didn’t have to dress that way”. Age old excuses for behaviors that put-down victims by maintaining the accused are…innocent before proven guilty. How can you prove they are guilty if society still finds ways to blame the victim.

The feminism in this film is great. It’s not over-the-top. It’s not a war between all women and all men. It’s a woman against an issue that women have to face. Some of her obstacles are other women. I think the approach to this film is fantastic and more feminist films should borrow this, almost too realistic, style. I think this film will speak to women of all ages and men as well.

Overall, Promising Young Woman is pretty fantastic. There were some really neat edits with matching-shots, apart from that, most of the cinematography was fairly standard. This film has one of the best long-takes that I have ever seen. The performance, duration and content really achieves its goal and it’s honestly great. The plot of this film subverts expectations repeatedly and really sticks to its message. Will I watch this again? Yes, there’s definitely a lot to learn from this film, about society, feminism and filmmaking. Should you watch this? Absolutely, this is one of those films that will take its place in history. In not too long, students will be watching this film in Gender in Film Courses and Cinema History Courses.

Tony King

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1 Comment

I love this! This was such a wonderful film, I hope it gets the recognition it deserves! It really did a great job speaking about the issue and presenting it in such a realistic, and yet somehow entertaining, light. Great review!

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