On January 17, 2015 a young Stanford college student Chanel Miller got extremely drunk and was sexually assaulted by another college student named Brock Turner. Chanel later released a memoir about this assault stating that rape is not a punishment for being drunk. Odds are that the screenwriter and director of “Promising Young Woman”, Emerald Fennell was inspired by this story or another like it. Because this is the main idea behind this dark comedy/drama about a former medical student Cassandra, played by Carey Mulligan seeking revenge for a close friend who was sexually assaulted by several other college students when she was very drunk one night.
The two hours of this solid drama unwind the series of events from some seven years earlier where the medical school did nothing to prosecute those involved in the sexual assault of Cassandra’s friend Nina. A lawyer who dug up irrelevant dirt to discredit Nina and fellow students who showed Nina no empathy or understanding, ultimately turning their backs on her. Nina later dropped out of medical school along with Cassandra who devoted her time towards helping her friend recover from a violent assault that ruined her life.
Most unusual about this film is the lack of extreme-murder-eye-for-an-eye that is typical of revenge movies like this one. The revenge Cassandra seeks is more in line with an admission of guilt and retribution, rather than killing people, that I thought was a refreshing new approach. Cassandra regularly goes to bars, pretending to be very drunk only to later turn the tables on any man who takes her home and tries to take advantage of her – in a half hearted attempt to avenge what happened to her friend Nina. There are numerous attempts to be different with this story, that mostly all work, and an ending that was very unexpected, but did reach a satisfying conclusion. As have said many times in this blog, so many of us go to the movies because we crave justified conclusions that happen in real life, far too rarely.
The Rotten Tomatoes reviews of Promising Young Woman are an extremly high 91%. I agree with this rating and highly recommend this film.