Each Oscar season, I try to see as many of the major nominees as possible before the show, which makes it more fun to root for certain movies over others. For the 2020 Awards, I managed to see every movie nominated for Best Picture except Promising Young Woman. Nomadland won that year, but I was pulling for Judas and the Black Messiah.
I never actually sat down to watch Promising Young Woman until reviewing this 4H UHD release. No real reason…I just never got around to it. But if I had seen it prior to that Oscar night, this is the movie I would’ve been rooting for to win…not just Best Picture, but Carey Mulligan for Best Actress and Emerald Fennell for Best Director. But at least she won an award for her screenplay, which is well deserved.
Promising Young Woman is ostensibly a revenge film, but unlike any I've ever seen (and I’ve seen plenty). Mulligan plays Cassie, a medical school dropout who lives with her beleaguered parents and works as a barista. Each night, however, she cruises bars pretending to be completely hammered and luring men into trying to sexually assault her while she’s passed out. They’re horrified when Cassie reveals she’s completely sober, which says a lot about what type of people they are.
It turns out Cassie’s life-long best friend, Nina, was raped while drunk at a college party. Worse yet, the guy got away with it because his friends, lawyers and the college itself more or less swept the incident under the rug. Nina later killed herself, and ever since, Cassie’s dedicated her life to entrapping men attempting the same thing (most of whom claim they’re actually ‘nice guys’).
Cassie does let her guard down when an old college friend, Ryan (Bo Burnham), re-enters her life and the two begin dating. That’s when she learns the man who raped Nina, Alex (Chris Lowell), is now an anesthesiologist and about to get married. So she comes up with a creative plan to finally hold everyone involved in the incident accountable, culminating with Alex himself.
|"Some freak just ordered black coffee. What do I do?"|
At the film’s center is Mulligan’s excellent performance. As Cassie, she’s funny, sardonic, sympathetic and believable, the last quality being especially important during moments when plausibility could sometimes be called into question. But really, plausibility is of secondary importance to how the movie makes us feel. Seeing these people get what’s coming to them is extremely satisfying, yet it seldom involves any actual violence. As the story unfolds, we’re sometimes amused, other times enraged, often surprised…but always engaged.
Of all the Best Picture nominees that year, Promising Young Woman was the best one. I simply didn’t know it at the time. But hey…better late than never. It's a bittersweet black comedy that’s as perceptive as it is entertaining. This release comes with a new 4K transfer, as well as the original Blu-ray. Of the two, the 4K sports a more vibrant overall picture, though the audio for both sound pretty much the same (at least to these ears).
4K, BLU-RAY & DIGITAL COPIES
FEATURETTES - A Promising Vision (mostly featuring writer-director Emerald Fennell); Two-Sided Transformation (this one focuses on the Cassis character, as played by Carey Mulligan); Balancing Act. Each runs about 3-4 minutes each, and not too comprehensive.
AUDIO COMMENTARY - By writer-director Emerald Fennell.