This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
LegionWrex’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
TW: frank discussions of sexual assault
They never say the word "rape".
There is a lot to unpack here in Promising Young Woman, which is likely why I saved it for last out of the line up of Oscar hopefuls. It's a messy film at points, but that's almost to be expected when dealing with such a messy subject like this. We've had a bunch of films in the wake of the #MeToo movement, but Promising Young Woman feels like the first one to really come out and actually show what woman actually mean when they are talking about it.
Which is why the fact they never say the word "rape" here. It's alluded too (never shown), brought up in the conversation, and danced around, but we know what we are talking about. But men don't see what happened as rape, they are see it as normalized behaviour, something to be applauded. Even characters like Ryan or Madison - by being a bystander or dismissive of other women because they weren't close to you, you are contributing and in ways are partly responsible for what happened.
All of this is delivered exceptionally by Mulligan who gives a bravura performance here. From her monologues to her sly wit and sarcasm, she leaps off the screen and while a lot of times she is speaking to the audience as well as the characters, it's done in a way that's impactful and engrossing. She's honestly unmatched here and absolutely slays her role in a way that only she could do, continuing her trek as one of the best actors working today. Bo Burnham is really great here too though as the only other major performer coming close to Mulligan, and his natural likability really helps in selling what the film is saying about the "nice guy" phenomenon.
And on a technical level, wow! Fennell is already marking herself as a filmmaker to watch, particularly from a visual perspective. The bright, almost candy like colour palette makes it on the best looking films of it's respective year, and it really pops from the screen thanks to some really amazing tableaus. Just a gorgeous film, and the incredible soundtrack is nothing to scoff at either with probably the best usage of Britney Spears' Toxic I've ever heard.
And then there is the ending, which has been widely discussed. I've read incredible pieces on it from people who hate it and people love it, and frankly the women who are discussing it should be heard first over the opinions of yet another white man. That being said, I do find it interesting that, in the end, it is murder that takes down Al as opposed to his sexual assault, which to me showcases just how much our justice system just does not listen to sexual assault survivors or victims. Instead of reading it as a "triumphant last gotcha", I read it instead as scathing, an indictment of society that we literally have to let it get to this point for us to even do something about it.
I'm gonna be thinking about Promising Young Woman for awhile. And it should - this is a necessary film, and an important watch, particularly for seeing a female centric story from a female director who took this big of a swing. We need more stories and risks like this, and while the film is indeed messy, I'll gladly take messy over anything else any day of the week, and it's highs are among the highest of the year. Fantastic debut from Fennell and a must see.