Promising Young Woman review: “Challenging genre expectations at every turn”

“I am a nice guy!” pleads Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s not-so-nice Neil in writer/director Emerald Fennell’s blistering feature debut. He’s one of the dozens of men to have failed Cassandra Thomas’ test. Played by a rarely better Carey Mulligan, Cassie spends her evenings in bars, feigning legless inebriation until a ‘nice guy’ picks her up. How far they go is up to them, but consent is never given and if they ignore Cassandra’s repeated protests… well, that would be telling.

Billed as a “delicious new take on revenge”, the first thing to note about Promising Young Woman is it probably isn’t the film you think it is. Look past the cupcake-colored aesthetics, darkly comic tone and Cassandra’s provocative MO, and you’ll find a film that’s rooted in the repercussions of trauma – both the act itself and the scars that refuse to fade in the absence of justice. “We get accusations like this all the time,” says the college dean who, a few years prior, covered up a crime that drives Cassie’s every action. “I have to give him the benefit of the doubt.” It’s a chilling line, but one that gets to the heart of what makes Fennell’s script so cutting.

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