Cassie Thomas (Carey Mulligan) has an odd hobby: going to bars, appearing to be fall-down drunk, and luring men to take her home. When they do, she reveals her sobriety and doles out personal justice, graded on how badly they acted. Cassie dropped out of Med School after the rape and suicide of her best friend, Nina, and that incident has caused her to float about, landing her as a barista and plotting a life of fantasy revenge. When Cassie reconnects with an old Med School chum Ryan (Bo Burnham), she starts to re-enter the real world and she falls hard for him. Elements from both their past resurface, threatening to tear down everything they know.
The Production: 5/5
Spoilers follow. Skip to A/V quality if you haven’t seen the film yet.
Promising Young Woman is a fun black comedy/drama that takes the revenge fantasy to new heights. As an outgrowth of the “Me too”, movement it hits all of the excuses society has made for letting men get on with their lives as the women they have damaged fall to pieces. Cassie, like so many women, has decided that enough is enough and the only way things will change is to burn the whole thing down.
Still, her revenge is served cold. While there is some satisfaction in the way she ‘wins’ from beyond the grave, she and Nina are both still dead and the film doesn’t ever get a change to ask “Was revenge worth the price paid?”, it goes off on the high note of the men getting what they deserve (Tho Nina’s rapist Al’s (Chris Lowell) buddy Jerry (Adam Brody), who helped him cover it up, seems to get away. It seems satisfied that smug turnabout is victory enough, changing the whole system of patriarchy will have to wait another day. In the added featurette this seems to be addressed by the question of whether a single act of misogyny or violence or revenge is what should define us. Which it seems to me is exactly what it was fighting against, just in a different light. Ultimately we never really know all of who any of us are, but shouldn’t we at least try to hold each other accountable and work to fix the mistakes, not just follow blood with blood? Maybe Cassie learned that too late. Maybe it’s that in real life most victims don’t ever get to turn those tables so even post mortem justice is a win.
Special shout out to the side characters here. Clancy Brown as dad Stanley represents so many parents who both want the best for their kids yet are stymied by how to help them process their trauma. Laverne Cox as no-nonsense yet still good friend Gail provides some much needed comic relief. Christopher Mintz-Plasse as a coked out would be assailant is the wind vane that could swing into full on assault but thinks he’s a good guy and Allison Brie as the Med School girl who just chalked things up to ‘boys will be boys’ are two sides to the same coin. Evil wins because good people do nothing to stop it, even in themselves.
3D Rating: NA
PYW is an astonishingly well shot movie and that translates supremely well to this Bluray. Lovely colors even in dark environs, zero offending grain, zero artifacts, zero ringing. Lots of thinly focused shots with deep bokeh.
Why no 4K? It was shot on Arri Alexa Mini with Panavision G-Series Lenses, and finished as a 2.8k DI in Dolby Vision for theatrical release. On wonders it that wouldn’t be even more dazzling on a 4K DV uprez, but it’s not to be it seems.
From the opening scene in a dingy club it is apparent that sound design is an important consideration for PYW. Deep bass from Charli XCX ‘Boys’ in the club, well crafted vocal music throughout, the soundtrack does not disappoint at any point. Bottom line is that if you can make someone singing Paris Hilton in a pharmacy interesting, you’ve found gold.
It’s well crafted into all corners too. No simple front music stage, the sound washes over you in both quiet reflective moments and tense confrontations alike.
It was released theatrically in Atmos, bummer that it’s down to flat 7.1 here but still it’s GREAT 7.1.
Special Features: 3/5
There are only two special features:
A full length director’s commentary with Emerald Fennell
A 3 part behind the scenes featurette that runs about 20 minutes
The featurette was good but left me wanting more.
Overall I was really impressed from all angles with Promising Young Woman. Acting, direction, audio and picture quality. And it seems I am not alone in that, the film has gotten 5 Oscar noms including best film, director, actress, screenplay and editing. They missed audio direction, it definitely qualifies there and is one of the best sounding dramas ever.
If I had one wish it would have been a 4k release matching what went out theatrically. That and a few more minutes talking with the cast and crew.
Still, PYW is the right film at the right time. It would not surprise me at all to see it win it’s fair share of Oscars. If nothing else here at HTF it is easily “Recommended”.
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