Promising Young Woman ★★★

I grew up listening to the Casey Kasem Top 40, and I’ll always remember when I first heard a clip of him absolutely freaking out on his show’s producers. He reads his customary listener letter, written by a girl whose dog has just died. Kasem finishes the mournful, poignant letter and transitions into a song. It’s Bananarama’s “Venus,” or something like that, and he FREAKS OUT after it comes on. (Paraphrase) *Why the F*CK do you come out of a letter about a dead dog and play a f*cking high energy pop song?! I gotta read a letter about someone’s dead f*cking dog, and then you play a f*cking up tempo pop song! It’s ponderous, man. F*cking ponderous!*

While I wouldn’t characterize this film as “f*cking ponderous,” there were some intensely emotional scenes immediately followed by the bubbliest of bubblegum pop songs. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the music, and I can tell that Fennell is going for a pink-soaked Wesley Kubrickerson look and feel, but those hard left tone shifts during such trauma-laden scenes didn’t work for me. Also, the strings in the score were so heavy handed during scenes where the audience shouldn’t need musical cues to conjure emotions.

In general, the plot felt too unwieldy for Fennell to reign in, and the aesthetics distracted from the meaning more often than they complemented or reinforced it. Carey Mulligan is great, but while Cassandra’s life of vengeance can be morally rationalized, the effect it’s had on her life feels only halfway explored and explicated. Emerald Fennell is a promising young director, and it’s great to see a film tackle such crucial issues head on. I’m looking forward to her next film.


2020 Ranked

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