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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Jan 30, 2021



‘PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN’ is the directorial debut of Emerald Fennel, who’s also an actress and played the young Camilla Parker Bowles in “The Crown, Season 4”. 

This is a revenge movie and where she the narrative went is truly unpredictable. 

The lead character is Cassandra or Cassie, who at 30 years old, still lives with her parents who are worried about her lack of ambition in life. 

Living with one’s parents is something unusual in the U.S. where young people usually leave their home to declare their independence at 18. 

Cassie used to be in medical school and is considered to be an achiever, a promising young woman as the film’s title says. But she suddenly drops out and is now contented working as a barista in a small coffee shop. 

The movie starts with her looking so drunk in a bar. A guy takes interest in her and takes her to his pad, obviously hoping to get her to bed. But it turns out to be just a ploy on the part of Cassie and she has had so many past victims listed in her notebook. 

She just pretends to be drunk and the moment a guy starts messing her up, she suddenly becomes fully sober and scares them to reform and stop taking advantage of helpless women. 

There’s obviously something wrong with her sociopathic behavior and, slowly, we discover the reason why suddenly dropped out of school, retreated to her own cocoon and has seemingly forsaken her own dreams for the future and is just coasting along. 

Her best friend then, Nina (who’s never shown), was raped while drunk by their classmate, Al Monroe. Nina files a case against him, but she didn’t get the justice she deserves as some folks conspired against her. 

It’s intimated that she eventually killed herself, affecting Cassie so intensely.

In the coffee shop where she works, Cassie meets a former med school classmate now a pediatrician, Ryan (Bo Burnham), who expresses interest in her and ask her for a date. 

He mentions that their former classmate, Al Monroe, is soon getting married. This prompts Cassie to plot out a revenge plan against those who are involved in her friend Nina’s death.

She first gets in touch with Madison McPhee (Allison Bree), a friend who didn’t believe Nina’s story. She gets her drunk then asks a man to take the intoxicated Madison to a hotel room. Madison believes she had sex with the man and tries to call Cassie but she ignores her.

Next on her list is the dean of their medical school, Elizabeth Walker (Connie Britton), who looked the other way despite irrefutable evidene and quickly dismissed Nina’s complaint of rape for fear it will tarnish their school’s reputation. 

Cassie hatches a plan to make Walker believe that her daughter, named Amber, has been compromised in the company of some drunken male companions. 

The dean then becomes so stressed and so remorseful that she didn’t help Nina before. She implores Cassie to tell her where daughter is. Cassie tells her that Amber is actually safe and it’s just her way to make the dean feel the wrong that she did to Nina before.

Cassie then goes to Jordan Green (Alfred Molina), the lawyer who bullied Nina into dropping her case against Al. She finds out that Green is actually remorseful and is feeling so guilty over what he has done, not only to Nina but other victims that he also intimidated for his clients.

The story gets more complicated when Cassie gets hold of a video showing the actual rape of Cassie. Her last victim would be Al himself while his friends are giving him a stage party before his wedding. 

She goes to the party pretending to be a stripper and there’s no way we’ll tell you what happens next.  We’d rather you watch it for yourself as it would be a total spoiler to reveal anything else. 

Suffice it to say that we don’t totally agree with the film’s conclusion. We felt so uncomfortable while watching it. Just see it for yourself and tell us if you’d find it a fitting ending for Cassie’s emotionally charged journey. 

But for us, the last 15 minutes and the details of how the story is resolved are just so contrived that it strains the film’s credibility. 

The best thing about the movie is Carey Mulligan’s portrayal of Cassie. We remember she got an Oscar best actress nomination about 10 years ago for the British film, “An Education”, where she plays a 16-year old cello player. 

She’s good there but she’s even better here as the nemesis of toxic masculinity, perfect for this “Me Too” era when women have learned to fight back. 

It’s a complex role but she nails every nuance with amazing dexterity in a deeply layered performance, even in that light scene in a store where she and Ryan sing along to a forgettable song by Paris Hilton. 

She alters her look and personality to adapt to various situations. She really looks so tipsy when she’s pretending to be drunk. 

But the moment she changes and issues a scary wake up call to her would be predator, barking “Hey, what are you doing?”, then she becomes truly formidable. 

In some way, yes, maybe, justice is served. But at what cost!!!!