Promising Young Woman

Promising Young Woman

Is contemporary media culture during covid acting as a soft censor to film? One could argue that the lack of any graphic violence in Promising Young Woman is a conscious choice that is some reflection on the rape revenge fantasy genre. It could also be argued that since this movie is going to be seen primarily on streaming services, which allow for instant sharing of any part of the film, that any violence was avoided as to not step on social media content guidelines.

I posit this mainly because there are multiple scenes of a woman luring a rapey dudebro home by pretending to be drunk and vulnerable. These scenes build and build into... nothing. The scene just ends or the guy awkwardly leaves. She then leaves a mark in her diary, adding to the amount of times she has done, again, something that is never elaborated on. Later a guy recognises her and says something along the lines of 'hey you're that crazy bitch!' and then storms off. Still there is no indication of what she is doing at all. Why? It's such a confounding choice that it launches one into conspiracy theories.

It also sinks nearly every other part of the film. Almost all men here are depicted as creepy rapist dudebros who only exist to high five each other and assault women. This would be totally fine if our protagonist lopped their heads off or something similar, but of course she doesn't. The movie has her confront these gigantic assholes and then nothing is really resolved.

However there is evidence of the film being aware of its own weird placidity. There's a scene in which Carey Mulligan has fallen asleep in her car on the road. She is then honked and yelled at by some guy in a truck, which prompts her to smash his car with a crowbar. I was perplexed by this in the theater since it has no relevance to the movie at all—just a completely disconnected event plopped into the middle. But now I see it as an admittance of the lack of any cathartic violence, and thus awkwardly throwing the audience an attempt at some sort of release.

I would have gritted my teeth through the awful needle drops (including a modern pop cover of It's Raining Men), dumb twitter bullshit*, and the weird laziness of a lot of the writing if the film gave any catharsis. But it couldn't. Even in the twist ending the fucking cops show up to enact Mulligan's vengeance. It's an exploitation film that doesn't really seek to satisfy the audience in anyway, only subjecting them to a bunch of cartoonish assholes.

*There's literally a scene of a guy talking to Mulligan about a David Foster Wallace book and about how women don't need to wear makeup.

Matt liked these reviews