‘Promising Young Woman’ more than typical revenge thriller


McKenna Slaughter, Staff Writer

The newly released “Promising Young Woman” is a nearly indescribable movie. Its marketing would have you believe it’s a revenge thriller, but to chalk it up to only that would be to sell it far short. The film follows Cassie Thomas (Carey Mulligan), former medical student and current barista, as she seeks revenge for the death of a dear friend. She does this by dressing up in various disguises and going to bars and clubs, pretending to be drunk until a “nice guy” offers to take her home. Once Cassie arrives at various mens’ homes, she enacts her plan by revealing herself to be sober and “taking control” of the situation. The film is written and directed by Emerald Fenner, known for playing  Camilla Parker-Bowles on the Netflix series “The Crown” and for her writing on Hulu’s “Killing Eve.” 

“Promising Young Woman” proves to be a film with a personal side and raw emotion in spades. It follows a tone similar to cult classics such as “Jawbreaker” and “Jennifer’s Body,” which also received average theatrical releases and polarizing reviews. “Promising Young Woman” also parallels in its candy-coated visuals, leaning into the striking image of a woman in bright pink lipstick, multicolored hair and rainbow nails committing acts of immense violence. This clashes directly with the cinematography, which feels grounded and real. Many of the settings are dingy and dirty, which also adds to this contrast. This doesn’t feel out of place, however, and rather adds to the movie’s unique and unforgettable tone. 

“Promising Young Woman” serves first and foremost as a critique on men who view themselves as “nice guys.” They are, after all, the men who offer to take Cassie home in the first place. These men manage to convince those around them — and in certain cases, even themselves — that their intentions are pure even when in reality this couldn’t be further from the truth, providing another interesting twist when Cassie encounters a man who genuinely does care about her. The arrival of Ryan (Bo Burnham) turns this film into a romantic comedy for a time. This sharp change in tone feels justified rather than jarring, and adds even further to the final message. “Promising Young Woman”  provides a far more well- rounded view of sexual assault than the previous trend of “rape revenge stories,” frequently seen in the horror genre. This film doesn’t want you to become comfortable with its subject matter, even as you fall into the rhythm of dramatized violence. “Promising Young Woman” lulls you into believing it will be a comfortable, predictable thriller/dark comedy. Yet, in its final moments, it provides a  twist that feels entirely sobering and serves as a reminder of the realities of violence against women as a very real and pervasive issue.