During the Sundance Film Festival, viewers got to experience the debut of Emerald Fennell’s colorful and pop-music infused “Promising Young Woman.”
Carey Mulligan stars as the protagonist, Cassie, an extremely smart woman who just turned 30. Cassie leads a double life after a tragedy involving her childhood friend, Nina, caused her to drop out of medical school.
Cassie spends her time working in a small coffee shop and lives with her parents. At night, she goes bar hopping, pretending to be drunk to see which “good men” will try to seduce her. With her notebook, she marks their names and keeps track. How many guys will pretend to be good, only to take advantage of someone who is too drunk?
When Cassie runs into an old college classmate, Ryan, played by Bo Burnham, everything begins to change. She returns to her list of old classmates, seeing if any of them remember Nina. Do they feel remorse, guilt, or regret for what happened?
At the same time, Cassie and Ryan strike up a romance, and she allows herself to become vulnerable. Revenge, she seems to realize, isn’t the path she needs to take.
But, despite the candy-colored scenes and pop tunes, this is not a film of happy endings. When new evidence is brought to Cassie’s attention, she sets off to a point of no return. A vicious, twist ending left Sundance audiences shocked and speechless.
The film is a shattering experience based on trauma and revenge, with questions left unanswered as the credits rolled. Maybe that is what Fennell, who both directed and wrote the film, had planned — to force the audience to fill in the gaps and keep their minds turning long after the end.
“Promising Young Woman” premiered at Sundance and makes a wider, national release April 17. The large, powerhouse cast also includes Alison Brie, Connie Britton, Adam Brody, Jennifer Coolidge, Laverne Cox, Max Greenfield, Molly Shannon and Alfred Molina.