Promising Young Woman is a 2020 black comedy thriller film directed, written, and produced by Emerald Fennell, in her feature directorial debut. Fennell is perhaps best known as the writer of the second season of the critically acclaimed Killing Eve TV series. Promising Young Woman stars Carey Milligan in the lead role.
The plot of Promising Young Woman revolves around Cassie Thomas (Milligan), an ex-medical student who now works at a coffee shop while still living with her parents. In the first act, it is revealed that Thomas trawls bars and clubs pretending to be intoxicated in order to entice predatory men into bringing her to their home, whereupon she lectures the men on their bad behaviour, when they attempt to take advantage of her condition.
The reason behind this strange behaviour lies in Thomas’ bad experience in medical school where her best friend Nina was raped while drunk. Unfortunately, the culprit (another medical student) was never brought to justice and this ultimately led to Nina’s suicide. Thus, in her own way, Thomas in attempting to get revenge for Nina.
In addition to this ad hoc plan of vengeance, Thomas begins to execute a scheme to make accountable those she perceives as responsible for Nina’s rape and death. Unlike revenge actions perpetrated by male protagonists, nobody gets physically harmed in Thomas’ plan.
This makes Promising Young Woman a refreshing exercise and a clever reinvention of the revenge movie genre. Mulligan is delicious and delightful as Thomas walking the razor’s edge of insanity as Thomas carries out her scheme.
However, sadly in the third act, the movie is unable to stick its landing. As Thomas moves into her endgame, the logic simply does not hold. Sure, it comes together nicely, especially for the audience, but it would have been impossible for Thomas to plan the sequence of events as they unfold on screen. There are too many variables that are out of her control. It just does not make sense.
That all said, Fennell should be applauded for a very strong debut effort. Conceptually, Promising Young Woman is a very ambitious movie but in pushing the thematic agenda, logic was sacrificed and the plot holes just become too many to ignore.
… still there’s more …