PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN was probably the most talked-about movie in 2020. It was promoted as a fun, revenge trip with a trailer synchronized to a beloved Britney Spears dance track. It had a feminist attitude with Carey Mulligan donning flashy wigs and costumes to punish the men who take advantage of women. Then, the world suffered a pandemic and the release was pushed back. Eventually, a Christmas release was announced and the ambitious feedback starting floating around social media as soon as screeners were sent out, with our own founder chiming in here. What was it about this movie that was getting critics riled up? There were some who loved it and those who seemed to be triggered by its content. I’ve seen it twice now and know that my viewing experience was definitely triggered, but I loved it for that reason.
Mulligan plays Cassie, someone who plays incapacitated at bars. She allows sleazy men to take her home, but as soon as they think they’re getting lucky, she breaks her act and makes sure they are held accountable. She doesn’t kill them or physically hurt them. Cassie does much worse: she makes them live with their actions. It’s clear a tragedy occurred during her time in med school that caused her to drop out, but PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN takes its time playing out that exposition. This event has taken over her life, blocking her from embracing a potential love interest, but more importantly, her own success. As soon as there seems to be a glimpse of happiness, Cassie learns not all is what it seems and seeks out to punish those who never got to learn the concept of consequences.
Mulligan was already a star before PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN, but this solidifies that status. Her performance juggles possibly every strand of emotion one is capable of by mere expressions. The loss, hurt, hate, and love she feels is reflected in every scene. Somehow, through all the grim themes, Mulligan is also able to bring humor and allow the audience to awkwardly laugh sometimes. The film plays off romantic comedy tropes often, but reminds us that it’s not exactly the way the world works. Yes, we can allow ourselves to be swept up when your favorite cheesy pop song plays, but the morning after, those personal demons come back.
Bonus features include three short behind-the-scenes glimpses that are mainly the cast and crew complimenting each other. Fortunately, director Emerald Fennell was able to remotely record a feature-length commentary which is where the real meat on this disc lies. Fennell outlines almost every scene, from the color schemes to the deliberate framework on each character. It’s fun to hear her personal feelings on why “Stars Are Blind” by Paris Hilton and “Toxic” by Britney Spears were chosen for key moments in the film. There will be no spoilers, but fans will definitely want to hear what she has to say about the controversial ending and why that decision was made. While the picture and sound do their job on the Blu-ray, PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN would benefit from a 4K release for which there is none at this time. There’s plenty of visual feasts here and feels a shame that they are not allowed to pop a little more.
It’s questionable if Cassie gets a satisfying ending as it’s one of the many issues that critics found divisive. PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN chooses the road not taken, veering viewers off course. It doesn’t belong in any genre as it’s funny, yet unsettling. It has a dark tone, but fleshed out in vibrant colors. One of the biggest takeaways is that one might approach the movie as a man-bashing, feminist woke propaganda. What Fennell explores with Cassie is that everyone is to be held accountable. The scenario played out here had multiple parties involved. The act itself might have triggered a series of events, but it’s the aftermath that led Cassie to her trauma.
PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN is a perfect example of what happens when a fresh voice is given an opportunity behind the camera. It’s a film without compromise, has people talking, yet can still stand next to your typical Hollywood blockbuster. With this Blu-ray release, more people will now have access to a film that will still be discussed and referenced for years to come and is highly recommended.
PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN is now available on Blu-ray™, DVD, and On-Demand from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.