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Promising Young Woman (2020)


kenmorefield
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This title is picking up steam in my various feeds...Letterboxd, etc. 

I don't know quite what to make of it. Mulligan is swell, but I can't quite shake the feeling that it is designed to provoke rather than prod. Early this year, I was on the minority end of The Invisible Man, dismissing the film as a prettified "let's beat up women" flick in the guise of "isn't it horrible how women get beat up?" flick.

This strikes me more as an Alan Ball type project -- more interested in how often it can shift your allegiances (and scold you for being wrong) than in actually talking a position. Even Fatal Attraction had a sort of consistency about it. This feels like the kind of stuff we cheer in movies because we know it isn't real with ideas we'd reject if they were presented in non-narrative form.

 

But...what do I know? There seems to be a cadre of admirers that see something I've yet to catch a glimpse of.

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I saw Scott Renshaw and Walter Chaw discussing on Twitter how much they did not care for this, which was in response to it winning best actress, and specifically best screenplay from the LA Critics' awards.

The trailer intrigued me and I'm looking forward to it, but I have no idea where I'll fall on it.

"Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones."

"Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning."

- Pope Francis, August 2013 interview with Antonio Spadaro

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I didn't care for this either.  It felt too glib and simplistic, rather than offering any substance in its examination of toxic masculinity and the enabling of sexual trauma.  It didn't surprise me that this is from one of the creators of Killing Eve, as it has that same "aren't we dark and edgy?" smugness to it.

To be an artist is never to avert one's eyes.
- Akira Kurosawa

https://www.patheos.com/blogs/secularcinephile/

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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 1 month later...

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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  • 1 month later...

With a few reservations, I was surprised to find I overall liked this quite a bit. I thought it was a great example of using implication to make us really feel the horror and put the viewer in the position of people who only have the word of survivors to believe. As to the ending, the lack of catharsis seems to be a deliberate choice on the part of Fennell, and while it means I would certainly never recommend this to an assault survivor or almost anyone for that matter, it's not a choice I'm inclined to fault her for, as it was the final damning indictment of rape culture and a tragic commentary on how revenge turns out for anyone with less power than their perpetrator.

Fennell's directing is fantastic (her script writing less so, so naturally she'll probably win the Oscar for that). The "shocking" twist is so predictable that it's hard to believe Cassie didn't know it or think to inquire about it, but otherwise the rest of the filmmaking is really solid. And Mulligan certainly deserves the nominations she's getting.

"Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones."

"Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning."

- Pope Francis, August 2013 interview with Antonio Spadaro

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  • 2 weeks later...

I watched this yesterday as I was catching up with the Best Picture noms. I didn't care for it at all, but I'm not as passionate in my dislike of it as others are. I'm not opposed to this stylized vision of rape revenge, which relies on the world of the film working in a way that does not conform to our own world, nor am I as bothered by the ending as some. (I find it more inconsistent than anything.) I agree with Dana Stevens' critiques, but my issues with it boil down to two basic problems I had:

1. The filmmaking is leaden. Every shot is straight-on, there's an abundance of head-room that serves no thematic purpose, the needle drops are cringey, and there's literally no visual momentum at any moment in the film since characters never actual move in the frame. I saw someone on Letterboxd complain about modern filmmakers in their review of another film, but I thought it was pertinent here: filmmakers are losing the ability to block a scene coherently! In this film, characters are only ever presented as in the centre of the frame and we never see them move around their locations in a wide shot. Instead, conventional shot-reverse-shot seems to transport them around the room, with every confrontation just being a collection of close-ups. It reminds me of sitcom television visual construction, with everything being arbitrarily on a flat axis and no sense of depth in any frame.

2. However much I appreciate Carey Mulligan as an actress, and I really do, I think she's miscast here. I don't think the way she carries herself physically or the way the film presents her through costume and hairstyling plays to the film's fantasy visions at all. I'm not sure at all what the relationship of the viewer to her is supposed to be, as well.

Which is all a big way of saying I'm not entirely sure what this film is attempting to accomplish and whether it is indicting the viewer at all. If it is, I'm not sure what that indictment is, since it never does a true bait-and-switch with the viewer, nor does it really confront the viewer and implicate them in the issues presented on screen. If it's not prodding the viewer, then what it actually trying to do beyond simple fantasy gratification?

"Someone like Jean-Luc Godard is for me intellectual counterfeit money when compared to a good kung fu film." - Werner Herzog

3brothersfilm.com

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