Promising Young Woman Explores Survivors Guilt with Dark Humor


On the surface, Promising Young Woman might seem like another rape revenge film but Director Emerald Fennell's film has a lot more depth to it than the torture porn the sub-genre has unfortunately become. A lot of films that fall into the "rape revenge" category, particularly those made by men, end up focusing more on the brutality of the rape or the revenge and in doing so, tend to still make these films that should center on women, more about the men. Where Promising Young Woman succeeds is that it never really takes the focus off the victim. It also explores what a victim really is in these situations, showing that there are a lot more victims that are affected than just the direct victim and the long lasting affects of this violation.

Promising Young Woman also doesn't let anyone "off the hook". Any time we see news about a rape or sexual assault that has occurred, we also see that the accused has a lot of enablers and defenders. And those people and systems that help these men get away with their crimes only leads to more bad behavior by "good guys". This film makes sure to call out the enablers and show how they all the sudden change tunes when they're the ones in the hot seat. To put it nicely (and without spoilers), let's just say there are a lot more people that are Dean Walkers and Madisons than want to admit.

This cast works very well together. Carey Mulligan is perfectly cast as Cassandra Thomas. She's perfectly blends humor, sarcasm, anger and vulnerability. Clancy Brown and Jennifer Coolidge are a great combination of loving parents who are also ready for their child to get out of their house and try to move on. The rest of the cast also works very well together and most do a lot with very little screen time. Molly Shannon has what can best be described as a cameo but it's a pretty impactful and more serious performance than one would expect.

The cast doing so much with  so little screen time is also what might disappoint some. Laverne Cox plays Gail, Cassandra's boss and she's great. But because she's Laverne Cox audiences might be expecting more. This is not to say that this is a film plagued by an underused cast. Rather its in the much better position of leaving an audience wanting more instead of needing more.

Promising Young Woman is by no means a perfect movie. No film really ever is. But it is a great blend of humor and seriousness that explores survivors guilt just as much as it does revenge.

Listen to Ro, Brandon and Kriss discuss this film (Plus the current state of 'Award Season' during COVID and more).

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Charles (Kriss)

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