Combustible Celluloid
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With: Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, Connie Britton, Adam Brody, Jennifer Coolidge, Laverne Cox, Max Greenfield, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Christopher Lowell, Sam Richardson, Molly Shannon, Clancy Brown, Alfred Molina, Francisca Estevez
Written by: Emerald Fennell
Directed by: Emerald Fennell
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence including sexual assault, language throughout, some sexual material and drug use
Running Time: 113
Date: 12/25/2020

Promising Young Woman (2020)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Assault Eyeful

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The ultimate #MeToo film, and the revenge film of the year, Emerald Fennell's Promising Young Woman is a sly, deceptive comedy, painted in Easter-Egg pinks and blues and looking for all the world to be a redemptive romance before whipping around and sticking its knives into you. Carey Mulligan has the role of her career — and the performance of the year — stuffing layers of pain below the surface and wearing a practiced casual countenance.

She's Cassie, a 30 year-old who first appears slurring drunk in a bar, while three slimy stock-trader types eyeball her. The nicest one of the three (Adam Brody) goes to help her; surely he wouldn't try anything? But the movie does a couple of sharp turns, shocking us right there, and again when McLovin himself (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) becomes her next target. This is a regular activity for Cassie, as we can see by the alarming number of checkmarks in her private little black book. She pretends to be drunk, lures some rapey male to her web, and then snaps into sobriety and proceeds to destroy his spirit, and possibly more than that.

Things change when she meets Ryan (Bo Burnham), whom she knew from medical school. She now lazily works in a coffee shop, and the story of what happened to her medical career comes out slowly. Ryan talks her into a date, and things look fine for a while, but then Fennell pulls out her final edged weapon for a devastating climax. Alison Brie, Connie Britton, Alfred Molina all play figures from Cassie's past who, in key scenes, must face up to their destinies. This is a movie that grabs 'em by the conscience.

Universal's 2021 Blu-ray release comes just as the film is enjoying five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress. The video looks fine to my eyes, capturing the movie's unique color scheme for home viewing, and the sound is excellent. Director Fennell provides a commentary track. Three short featurettes take a look at the behind-the-scenes of the movie. A digital copy is included as well as several subtitle options.

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