Break the mold and throw it away. Sledge hammer the archetypes and burn the redundant to the ground. And today I’ve got a movie for you that will do just that. Some will find it so outside the mold that it might feel disappointing? Though, by the end of this walk through, you’ll understand just how wrong you are! So today, that movie is, Promising Young Woman and prepare to have your expectations blown apart. Promising Young Woman Revenge Flick Explained…
But first, I have to say, that i should apply all kinds of trigger warnings on this one. Trigger warning wrt rape, violence, date rape, etc., etc. This movie is made out of trigger warnings – it’s an equal opportunity trigger warning dispenser. Why? Well, because it literally attacks impaired sexual attacks head on. Parties where men prey on women who have had a bit too much to drink? This is their comeuppance. This is the end of the line. And personally? I loved watching them get theirs. But this may not be your thing. So take this one easy if you don’t think it’s your cup of tea. But I will say, I’ve seen much, much, much more hardcore versions of this idea. Hard Candy anyone? (Ellen Page nay Elliot Page? So good. But that is way more intense than this.)
Promising Young Woman Walkthrough
Do I need to say this out loud? Really? The rest of this is intended for my friends who have already seen the film. Currently, Promising Young Woman is only in theaters. But it should hit video on demand seventeen days after it’s AMC release of Christmas day. (I’m horrible at calendar math…heck, I’m horrible at math, ask my high schoolers, they’ll tell you.) But that puts the VOD release somewhere around the 11th? Something like that. So if you are staying safe (as you should be) and avoiding movie theaters because of the global zombie apocalypse, you should be able to see/rent it soon.
Alright, let’s do this. As the movie opens, we start in the middle. We watch as Cassie (played by Carey Mulligan), spends her evenings setting up men that are would be rapists. Her tactic? She goes, alone, to bars, and acts drunk out of her mind. Men, helpful always, invariably find her, and offer to assist her home. As they begin to kiss and fondle her, she snaps out of her stupor and exacts vengeance. For some, Cassie thrashes them a bit and lets them go with a stern warning. But others, the more recalcitrant, it is implied that she severely harms, and maybe even kills. (Notice the different colors she uses in her book?)
I’m sure some of you will disagree with me on this point. But we know for a fact that Jerry is spared. We see him again later in the movie. The color of his name is blue. We know that she severely harms others, as illustrated by her eating a hot dog the next morning after her arm is dripping oodles of blood. Just trust me on this one, Cassie is bad ass when she needs to be in order to make a point.
Eventually we learn that Cassie lives with her parents and works at a minimum wage job. But not because she is incapable of anything else. Rather because she has been broken in the past by some horrible event. In fact, she was a med student, an exemplary one at that. She’s now retreated to a life of retribution.
Then, out of nowhere, Cassie finds love? Is it possible that men might be redeemable? Could that even be a thing? Ryan, an old classmate of Cassie’s from medical school, stumbles upon Cassie and they strike up a relationship. Cassie and Ryan know bliss that Cassie thinks was utterly impossible to her. Her parents too are very happy with her return, and her sudden change.
Stop for a second though. Did you honestly think that this note of happiness wasn’t discordant at all? Our Cassie, the hero of broken women everywhere? Was it possible that she’d be reformed? No. Only idiots would have assumed that this was the direction that our plot would take us. I mean, what would that even look like? Ryan and Cassie get married, have children, all while Ryan provides for them selflessly from his role as a pediatrician? Really? Come on. You never once thought that she’d be reformed. Did you?
Which brings us to Nina.
Nina is a name that reverberates through this entire film…from the open, to the last seconds. Over the course of the film, we learn that Nina was Cassie’s childhood best friend. Together the pair decided to head off to med school together, where the two of them were at the top of their class. But then something horrible happened. Nina went to a party, got too drunk, and was raped by Al Monroe, another student in their class. The impact of it was too much for Nina to bear, and she dropped out, and Cassie dropped out as well to take care of her. When Cassie took the allegation to the Dean of the school, Dean Walker, that Nina had been raped, the Dean determined that there wasn’t enough evidence to do anything about. Dean Walker determined that she couldn’t ruin the reputation of a promising young student like Al bases on hearsay.
So Cassie, in her determined state, decided she would go visit with Dean Walker, and see if she would change her mind. And when the Dean repeats all the same arguments as before, Cassie lets her know that she has taken the Dean’s daughter and dropped her off at a dorm room with a bunch of male students and some vodka. Dean Walker freaks out and apologizes for her part in what happened to Nina. And eventually Cassie lets the Dean know that her daughter is safe, she at a coffee shop, waiting for her favorite band to arrive.
Better yet, Cassie also met up with her old friend Madison to talk with her about what happened back then. Cassie plied her with bottles and bottles of wine and champagne, and then asked her about Nina. Madison kept her tune, refused to admit that anything had happened to Nina. Knowing that Madison would be as recalcitrant as ever, Cassie hired a guy to take her back to one of the hotel’s rooms. In the days after their meeting, Madison calls urgently over and over again, asking what had happened in the hotel with the guy. Eventually Cassie let’s Madison know that nothing happened. That the man was hired to tuck her in, to watch over her, and make sure she was safe, and nothing else. In return, Madison shares a video of the attack on Nina. Trouble is? It was recorded by Ryan… Cassie’s one true love.
The Ending of Promising Young Woman Explained
Cassie goes to Ryan’s work, confronts him there, and lets him know that the two of them are done. She also tells him that if he doesn’t tell her where Al Monroe’s bachelor party is going to be held, that she would release the video, and his medical career would be over. Realizing the bind he’s in, Ryan gives up the location. Cassie dresses as a stripper, and heads over to the cabin to confront Al. Cassie and Al eventually retire to a bedroom where she handcuffs him to the bed. She says she is going to carve Nina’s name all over his body when Al slips one hand free, and then attacks Cassie. Eventually he is able to put a pillow over her face, and he holds her down until she dies.
<record scratch> wait what?
Yeah, Al kills Cassie. Dead, dead, dead. No gimmicks. No pulling punches. Dead. How can that be? Cassie is our hero here! She is working through the cesspool of humanity, one by one, informing each and every evil man out there that what they are doing by preying on vulnerable women just is not acceptable. So how exactly can she be dead? Easy. Al killed her, that’s how.
And while she is dead, truly, that isn’t the end of the story. Because, Cassie, in her infinite wisdom, knowing full well that she could die going to that bachelor party, queued her revenge in advance. She mailed off the phone with the Nina video on it to a lawyer that owed her. She sent time delayed texts to Ryan letting him know that she had contacted the police, informing them of where Al was, and that she had been murdered. And as the movie ends, Cassie’s time delayed texts tell Ryan to enjoy the wedding – and we watch as Al is hauled off in handcuffs.
Alright, I get it that Cassie ultimately gets her revenge on Al for what he did to Nina years ago… but shouldn’t our hero survive the duration of a 90 minute film? Aren’t heroes supposed to make sequels, and champion the cause towards freedom and responsibility everywhere forever and ever amen? Well, sure, for lame heroes like Superman, and Ironman, maybe. This movie though is different.
Cassie was morally wrong. Emerald Fennell, the writer and director of Promising Young Woman, even acknowledges this fact as the movie unwinds. While Cassie does a good job of generally staying on the right side of this moral line, there are areas wherein she just detonates the moral ambiguity absolutely. Cassie doesn’t really dangle Dean Walker’s daughter in front of women-eating college students. Though she makes Walker think she did. She doesn’t really dump a completely wasted Madison in the lap of a man to abuse her. Though she makes Madison think she did. And that’s good, because she would become the evil she was purporting to hunt down and eradicate. Yet, Cassie’s attacking men who think she is easy prey, still crosses a moral line. Doesn’t it? We don’t know if she is murdering men. Or if she is just harming them. Even so, she has begun taking retribution out for her friend against random men she encounters.
The Moral Trash Heap That Is Today
Promising Young Woman asks a brilliant question about the morés and norms of our society today. Really, actually globally. We know this is a global problem. Why? Well, the Global Drugs Survey (GDS) looked into this issues and over a third of all women that were sexually taken advantage of, one third were intoxicated. Researchers talked with 120,000 people around the world to learn more about this specific problem. They were asked who they were with, what drugs they had taken, where they were, etc. And almost 30% of all the women surveyed stated they had been taken advantage of. And of those, 8% said they had an incident that happened in the last year. Worse? Almost none of the women surveyed said that they had gone to the police. And 43% stated the reason for this was caused by the fact that they personally felt responsible. (Topics covered specifically in this film.)
Interestingly, around 88% of those women that stated drugs were involved said that alcohol was the drug utilized in their unwanted encounter. 35% saw both drugs and alcohol involved in the encounter. The report states that “We found that most individuals who were taken advantage of experienced this in a private house, with a perpetrator (or perpetrators) already known to them in some capacity (e.g. romantic partner, friend, acquaintance, etc.).” The report found that it would be important for society to move away from victim blaming narratives – like for example going to bars alone, wearing inappropriate clothes, etc – especially when most of the results show that most victims are none to the abused.
Another very similar study showed that in about 48% of the time, the aggression was caused by a friend or an acquaintance. Another 22% was caused by their current, or ex partner. For those of you keeping track, that’s 70%. And if you’d like, you could add in another 17%, which was caused by someone the individual had met in the last 24 hours. 87% of these sexually aggressive experiences were caused by people (86% of which were male) that were fairly well known to the individual. Only 13% were strangers. So what that tells me, is that we (these individuals) believe that if we are able to liquor someone up, then we are also able to assume that sexually assaulting them is sort of covered in an umbrella clause. No? You liked me enough to allow me to get you drunk. So, THEREFORE, sex is in the bargain too?
This movie takes the problem, and spins it on its head in such a convincingly brilliant way. What would happen if a woman went out into society, looking for men that would take advantage of her seemingly vulnerable state? Then, what would happen if she stopped acting drunk mid-abuse? Would she be justified to defend herself? Kill them? Hurt them? The court system isn’t going to help her. That’s for sure. But there are laws on the books that allow someone to take a stand and defend themselves, so why not?
Promising Young Woman a Societal Revenge Flick Explained
American society has cornered women into a fairly untenable position here. Don’t dress like a slut, or drink like an alcoholic, and you won’t be sexually abused. But this is a myth. Most women are taken advantage of by men in their immediate circle (As happened to Nina). And almost none of these women are reporting their situations. Why? Because our society has proven, in advance, that we will fail them. Fail them with malice aforethought. Horribly. (As illustrated by the conversation with the Dean.) And this is wrong.
Now, I will say this. If you think that this movie is posturing. Or is wrong on this topic? Do us both a favor and don’t say so here. Find a suitable Reddit thread that welcomes your misogyny and spew it there. But please don’t waste your time or mine by attempting to win me round here, not on this topic. Not now. Because I won’t have it.
Edited by: CY
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