Promising Young Woman (2020)
January 13, 2021 7:19 PM - Subscribe

A young woman, traumatized by a tragic event in her past, seeks out vengeance against those who cross her path.
posted by ChuraChura (17 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
None of the reviews I've read make the ending clear; I found it incredibly upsetting so if you were going into it looking for a specific type of rape revenge plot, I would consider spoiling yourself first.
posted by ChuraChura at 7:28 PM on January 13, 2021 [5 favorites]

Yes, I was so disappointed/upset by the ending - it wasn't the direction I thought it was going in.
posted by fever-trees at 9:23 PM on January 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

I just came here to post this! I actually loved the ending. Like the writer, it felt real to me, and dramatically satisfying. And based on what I'd heard about the ending, I expected to hate it. Because when I was told about the ending, it was framed in a way that was not accurate to the film at all. The thing I heard from several sources was, "She decides that she's ready to die, so she commits suicide by giving herself over to the guy who raped her friend." absolutely not it. He was stronger than her and he got out and was able to kill her, but she had one heck of a contingency plan in place.

I was generally impressed by this film. The reveal about her boyfriend was awful, and yet based on everything that the characters were saying about that social group, it was also unsurprising.

One thing that especially interested me was the use of color. Cassie starts off wearing pink regularly. When she gets together with Ryan, she starts wearing blue. And in her final scene, she wears white. I found it symbolic.
posted by rednikki at 11:29 PM on January 13, 2021 [11 favorites]

The ending turned me off of seeing this movie. It seems like a weird punishing copout. Oh now we need realism? Convenient.
posted by asteria at 4:07 AM on January 15, 2021

Asteria, the entire movie struck me as realistic. Sure, the concept is striking. But every single character and interaction, every denial and attempt to sweep Nina’s assault under the rug felt completely accurate. Cassie’s reaction to what happened seemed in line with her trauma. And watching her trajectory throughout the film, particularly going into the third act, it is hard to imagine a different outcome. She was on the road to self destruction, and she knew the danger she was putting herself in. The climactic scene, while nauseating and shocking, felt completely earned. I really loved this movie, even though it was difficult to watch at points.
posted by bluloo at 10:14 PM on January 16, 2021 [13 favorites]

I think one of the hard parts of this film is...when I was told about the ending, I expected to HATE it. Imagine my shock when I LOVED it! I can't think of a "happier" ending that would have worked as well with the overall story.
posted by rednikki at 12:59 PM on January 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

I absolutely loved this movie end to end. The wit was amazing, the pivotal character reveal was excellent, and disturbing in exactly the way I think it would play out in real life. So many "lines" in this film feel like they just copied and pasted from every piece of news writing about yet another assault, instead of needing to create anything. That's not a criticism; that is, if I can hazard a guess, the point.

Can we get a nod to the cinematography? My god, the framing and shots in this film, the way there's almost always another character supposed to be on screen with Cassie who is just absent. The way her parent's house is frozen in time, just like she is...

And the ending... wow.

Mostly what I took away from this is the sense that, like other examples of this kind of media, I need to just go and sit and have a think about how or where I have been that nice guy in my life, which is clearly one of the takeaways the writer, director, and cast intended.
posted by ChrisR at 9:40 AM on January 21, 2021 [8 favorites]

A point that was made in the Pop Culture Happy Hour conversation about this movie - this is sort of marketed as a straight up revenge thriller in a way that might feel empowering for survivors of sexual assault, but as they say (and ChrisR notes), it seems way more like it's geared towards people who have unwittingly participated in Rape Culture.
posted by ChuraChura at 10:20 AM on January 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

Aisha Harris's take (also from NPR Pop Culture Happy Hour) is also interesting.
posted by ChuraChura at 10:55 AM on January 21, 2021

I loved this very much. The use of colour, beloved tv boyfriends, the ending, it all worked for me. My only concern is do you actually get to be a practicing surgeon before 30?
posted by sgrass at 11:23 AM on January 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

I went into this having seen nothing else but the trailer and Emerald Fennel's work on Killing Eve and just loved it, start to finish. As a woman in her 30s, having much...I felt like this movie was made not just for, like ChuraChura says, "people who have unwittingly participated in Rape Culture" (though I am def recommending this to certain men I know!), but for the women who have to navigate those choppy waters. Of course it was filmed. Of course a friend denies anything happened. Of course the 'nice guy' was there. Of course she's a bitch for having agency when they aren't expecting it. Watching it and thinking about it afterwards, I feel seen by Fennel in a way I would never expect from a movie.

Also the music was perfect.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 2:41 PM on January 26, 2021 [11 favorites]

I think the only scene that didn’t work for me was the one with the lawyer, Alfred Molina. It was too rushed. I didn’t really believe him or his change of heart but apparently I must.

My favorite bit was after the text she sent to her ex-boyfriend at the wedding, when she signed it Cassie & Nina.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 7:42 PM on March 9, 2021

I thought the ending was brilliant but hard to watch. The hardest part for me was the scene when the best man finds the groom; their body language and words are so similar to the way a woman might comfort her best friend (it’s not your fault) who is currently curled up in the fetal position after well, you know. I don’t know how much of that echo was on purpose, but it was haunting.
posted by nat at 1:58 AM on March 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

I can see why the ending is polarizing. And honestly, the ending-ending feels shaky to me; ultimately, justice is served because...a male lawyer has had a change of heart and a male cop has rushed in to cart the bad guys off to prison? I felt like this part of it was as close to the audience-expected wish fulfillment as the film was willing to deliver, and I'm not sure I bought it...this was really the only part of the film that felt kind of pat and artificial to me. I certainly wanted to see justice done, but this felt a little too neat...there is something genuinely chilling about it (the "Cassie & Nina" text may have been intended as sweet, but it felt like a horror movie touch to me), but there's also something cute and Hollywood to it. I think we needed some kind of relief, though. Any ending that left Al unpunished would likely have been intolerably cruel and nihilistic.

That said:

I was as stunned to see Cassie die as I have been by anything in a movie in ages, and although I certainly didn't want her to die, I was...well...thrilled to see a movie do something so unexpected. It's an exhilarating feeling to realize you just don't know what you're watching, or what could possibly come next. I mean, I've seen The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I've seen Hard Candy and Audition; what could Cassie have possibly done to Al that would have surprised us? Satisfied, maybe; but not surprised us. It's just a preposterous level of boldness.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 9:10 PM on March 24, 2021 [4 favorites]

I thought it was very stylish but I wasn't a fan.

This article was a pretty good summary of why.

To nitpick a little, other than "it's a movie" I don't really understand why she spent seemingly years hunting rapists only to now go after the people who directly harmed her friend. Also I didn't really buy that Allison Brie's character would have blown off the rape accusation if she had seen the video, which, from what we are told, is pretty damn obvious.
posted by graventy at 5:18 PM on March 25, 2021

I enjoyed this, but I think it has to be taken within the context of the revenge thriller genre. I don't agree with bluloo that the entire movie can be taken as realistic; I think for the movie to work it has to be allowed some of the unrealistic conventions of the revenge genre.

To be clear, I thought all of the elements around Nina's assault — the cover-up, denial, self-denial, and even filming it felt realistic. What I found unrealistic, where we have to suspend disbelief, is the idea that none of the dozens of random men Cassie targeted in the past have become physically violent once she revealed her deception. It's unrealistic that her contingency plan can be timed so perfectly to have Al arrested at his wedding, rather than some other time — but her final scheduled texts to Ryan are only satisfying if that happens. And, most disturbingly, if you take this as a more realistic movie, you have to think about what happens after the end, and I think there's a good chance Al gets away with it. I'm not sure there's enough evidence to tie Al specifically to Cassie's murder, as opposed to any of the other guys at the bachelor party. Even if the prosecution can flip Joe for his testimony, it's still one guy's word against one other's.

If I take this strictly as a revenge movie, I can ignore those bits, and I can say "yay, justice served" at the end, and I found the movie satisfying as such; but if you try to consider it beyond the genre it starts to unravel.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:53 AM on April 19, 2021

I enjoyed this movie too, although the unrealism of it bugs me somewhat.

Thirty is really young to be a pediatric surgeon, although I suppose it's barely possible. In general, if a student completes a traditional 4-year bachelor's degree program, 4-year medical school program, two-year to five-year general surgery residency, and a one-year to two-year pediatric surgery residency, it may take 11 to 15 years from the time of high school graduation to become a pediatric surgeon. If Ryan had the shortest possible residencies, he might have done it.

I agree with the above poster that Cassie would have gotten assaulted/raped by some of the many men she went home with. She's a tiny woman, and these men, who don't recognize the importance of consent and had also been drinking/doing drugs themselves, had her alone in their places. They're weren't going to suddenly back off and respect her the second they realized she's not drunk. Word would also have gotten out about her and people would have been on their guard.

It also doesn't make sense that she wouldn't have gone after those responsible for Nina's assault before now. She thought Al was in England and wouldn't have had the resources to go there, but Madison and the other guys she would have been gunning for, and if she'd gone after them she likely would have found out about Al's whereabouts.

While I do believe that there could have been a large contingent of swinish, sociopathic frat boy types in that med school class who were fine with what Al had done, I don't believe there wasn't anyone in Nina and Cassie's med school class who didn't realize that what Al did to Nina was wrong and turn that video over to the Dean or some such. The assault would have taken place in 2013, for heaven's sake. And the Dean gets several complaints a WEEK and dismisses them all? What century is she living in?

If Madison and the Dean really had the viewpoint they claim they do, they would not have done such a complete 180 so quickly.

The decor of Cassie's parents' place, while I get that it was supposed to look like a time capsule and indicate that Cassie was frozen in time by the horror of what happened to her friend, wasn't quite effective because it was decorated late seventies style, and her parents weren't even old enough to have had a house back then (the actors who played her parents were born in 1959 and 1961). It could have been her grandparents' house that her parents inherited, but in that case her parents would surely have updated the place between 1980 and 2020. I also think her parents would have been alarmed by whatever was going on with her and made an effort to help her long before she turned 30.

I noticed that Cassie still dressed and acted like she was 23, which was a much more effective if subtler effect.

In twisty thriller style, the movie teased us by making us think Cassie she was worse than she was. When we see her leaving Jerry's place early in the movie, with blood streaks on her body, I thought she'd killed him, and I also thought she'd set Madison up to be raped. It was only when she was telling the Dean that she left her young daughter in a hotel room that I thought, no, she surely wouldn't do that to an innocent adolescent girl, and that turned out to be the case, then it became clear that Jerry was still alive and Madison hadn't been assaulted.

I do think though that she might have simply stuck to releasing the rape video/going to the police with it herself rather than going to the bachelor party herself. She surely knew that even if all went according to her plan, she would face criminal charges herself for carving Nina's name on Al, and it wasn't necessary given that she could have effectively ruined his life with just that damning video. But then it's all of a piece with how self-destructive she was. She didn't care about her own life, but only about revenge, and she wanted the satisfaction of physically punishing him herself.

I was shocked when Cassie was murdered, but I was absolutely sure she would have had a contingency plan for that, although I expected it would be more along the lines of pre-scheduled social media posts of the video and her story rather than her sending word directly to the police. Her contingency plan was better than what I came up with, though Al getting arrested at his wedding was far-fetched. She couldn't have been sure the timing would play out like that.

Not that it wasn't satisfying. Al's "worst nightmare" is that he might have to face consequences for his behaviour, and now he will. He's looking at an annulment, loss of his medical licence, possibly criminal charges for rape (depending on what the statute of limitations are in the state), and social disgrace at the very least. I agree with Devilsadvocate that he might escape the murder rap unless Joe turns on him, but given that Joe fled the wedding when the police arrived... I think that might happen. Also, the other guys at the bachelor party might be able to give testimony that will help the police narrow down their suspects, i.e., "When the rest of us left, Joe and Al stayed behind," and perhaps someone in the area saw the smoke and could attest to the timing of the fire.
posted by orange swan at 5:41 PM on May 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

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