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  • Writer's pictureJames Rutherford

'Promising Young Woman': A Darkly Satirical Tale of Revenge Steeped in Modern Gender Politics

Movie poster for the 2020 film Promising Young Woman

Promising Young Woman (2020) is a singular and compelling dark comedy thriller starring Carey Mulligan as Cassie, a 30-something medical school dropout who lives with her parents in suburban Los Angeles while working as a barista—all the while furtively seducing men in the evening hours.

Attending bars alone, Cassie feigns drunkenness and masquerades as prey for men's misdeeds before confronting them in seclusion and revealing her sobriety—the full extent of her retaliation excluded from view. In a serendipitous turn, she reconnects with former classmate Ryan (Bo Burnham) and the two initiate a burgeoning courtship, yet Cassie's dark intentions remain unsatisfied. Burning with a need for revenge against the medical school classmates that drove her friend Nina to suicide, her relationship with Ryan becomes the tipping point for a grievous tale of unorthodox reprisal.

Written and directed by British actress/writer/filmmaker Emerald Fennell in her feature film debut, Promising Young Woman is a lacerating tale of provocation. Mulligan carries the show as the damaged yet resolute and endlessly cunning Cassie, intent upon vengeance at all costs. Not for all tastes, Fennell has concocted a strikingly unique depiction of gender warfare for the modern era—and delivered a vehement blow against the prejudicial forces of misogyny and toxic masculinity.


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