The Reel Review
Cassie was once a promising young woman… until a mysterious incident derailed her fledgling medical career. Now she lives with her parents, works as a barista in a coffee shop, and is hellbent on exacting revenge on lots of shitty guys, in this thriller starring Carey Mulligan (Far From the Madding Crowd, Mudbound).
In her feature film writing/directing debut, Emerald Fennell, who played Camilla Parker-Bowles in Season 4 of The Crown, swings for the fences in her wild tale about a woman’s rage against a patriarchal system where men rarely pay for their bad behavior. Each time you think you can predict where the story is headed, Fennell’s roller coaster thrill ride takes a jolting sharp turn. Imagine if the iconic Fatal Attraction were retold from the perspective of Glenn Close’s character, only with lots more justification for her revenge and with dark humor.
In what clearly is a very complicated role, Carey Mulligan is astounding, meticulously threading the needle of her vigilante’s sorrow and rage in such a way that it is believable without veering into either campiness or horror. Her Cassie simply seeks justice that will never come. Standup comedian Bo Burnham, on the heels of his 2018 directorial debut Eighth Grade, is also a standout as Cassie’s would-be boyfriend. The weakest spot in Fennell’s story – Alfred Molina’s character, feels phony and shoehorned in, just to make her deliciously twisty plot work. But her bold third act will leave you open mouthed in absolute shock, lingering in your mind long after the credits role.
• After Carey Mulligan was cast, writer/director Emerald Fennell, who was the show runner of Season 2 of Killing Eve, sent her a playlist of songs to set the mood for the film. The Britney Spears song “Toxic” was in that playlist twice.
• Carey Mulligan and Alfred Molina both appeared in the 2009 Oscar-nominated film, An Education.
• Writer/director Emerald Fennell also has a cameo in Promising Young Woman as the host of the YouTube make-up video tutorial.