Going into festival season last year, Promising Young Woman was one of my most anticipated films, especially with Bo Burnham’s role in it. Now, even after several months since seeing it and contemplating it a lot I still have mixed feelings. Carey Mulligan delivers an excellent performance as Cassie, a vengeful med school dropout grieving the death of her best friend, Nina, who was raped by their classmate. Bo Burnham is charming and that “Stars are Blind” scene really got me. However, I believe some of the messages in this film to be a little misguided -- particularly, the ending.
(Major spoiler warning)
Cassie’s death does not feel like a satisfying conclusion at all. It could be argued that some of her methods of exacting revenge make her more of an anti-villain than a pure hero, but something does not sit right with me about this movie’s resolution being the police. Especially given that the school’s legal system and handling of rape cases is criticized many times prior to the end. I can’t imagine that this is a very uplifting message for survivors of sexual assault, that their efforts to bring justice only result in death.
That being said, I don’t hate this film, but I don’t quite love it, either. It starts off strong but its messages ultimately end up muddled somewhere between the second and third acts.