Emerald Fennell’s Oscar-winning debut film finally gets a release in Germany and offers a welcome shake-up to the ‘rape-revenge’ subgenre.
The ‘rape-revenge’ movie has long been a cinematic staple, but not many films have brought much novelty to countless genre films. Enter Emerald Fennell, the Killing Eve showrunner and fresh Oscar winner (for Best Original Screenplay), whose stylish directorial debut gives the subgenre a shake-up not seen since 2005’s Hard Candy.
Promising Young Woman is a darkly comic, fuchsia-saturated thriller that sees Carey Mulligan give the performance of her already impressive career as Cassie, a 30-year-old medical school dropout who fakes blacking-out drunk behaviour to see how far her “nice-guy” hook-ups will go with someone who they believe is too smashed to resist their advances.
The best way to experience Promising Young Woman is knowing little about it. Safe to say that it pulls none of its punches, blending razor-sharp wit with pitch-black undertones and a kick-arse soundtrack to function as a damning indictment of the misogyny endemic within our culture and the complacency many (regardless of gender) lean back on when faced with uncomfortable home truths. It’s not all great, mind you: its hyper-stylised visuals may grate, the final beat lets it down and it can be argued that its feminist credentials could be construed as dubitable, especially in the divisive third act.
It’s hard to go any further without dropping some unforgiveable spoilers. However, love it or deem it problematic, there’s little doubt that the film’s portrayal of grief and rage strike a chord, and that its rightful sense of indignation will sit with you long after the credits have rolled.
Promising Young Woman / Directed by Emerald Fennell (US, 2020), with Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, Connie Britton. Starts August 19.