Once in a blue moon, you sit down to watch a movie not realizing it's going to be the only thing you can think about for the next 12, 24, 48 hours. It's only been 48 hours since I watched Promising Young Woman—the must-watch thriller of the year—but I imagine that I'll still be thinking about it long after today.
In this age of pandemic bingeing, it can be easy to gloss over the true standouts. After all, we've got a long Netflix queue to get through. But I encourage, nay, implore you to make time for this star-studded, Carey Mulligan-led piece of viewing.
Promising Young Woman officially debuted early last year at Sundance, but it didn't hit theaters until Christmas. Now, it's available to stream online—you can rent it on Amazon—and it's worth the rental fee.
The film stars Mulligan as Cassie, a former med student out for justice after her best friend is raped by her classmates. The film is dark. The film is funny. The film is clever. The film is important.
Here, five reasons Promising Young Woman will be considered one of the best films of the year.
1. Carey Freaking Mulligan
Mark my words: This performance is going to earn Mulligan an Oscar nomination. Her portrayal of Cassie is layered, smart and impossible to turn away from. She manages to balance humor (albeit extremely dark humor) with a chillingly calm strength in her character's drive to right the wrongs done to her best friend, Nina. One of my favorite things about this performance is just how surprising and nuanced it is. Each scene peels back another layer of this complex woman who remains haunted by the past and determined to take control of the future. #BestActress
2. The Rest of This Star-Studded Cast
You know it's a great film when big names sign on to appear in small (and I mean small) roles. We're talking the scene-stealing Jennifer Coolidge as Cassie's mom. Connie Britton in a particularly disturbing and tense appearance. Laverne Cox, Molly Shannon, Max Greenfield, Alfred Molina. Alison Brie crushing it in a very minor role. Each new famous face provides an additional worthy scene partner for Mulligan to spar and play with throughout.
3. It's Genre-Shifting
I won't provide any spoilers, but the film seems to shift genres throughout, elevating the experience (and the tension) even more.
My inner monologue as I watched: Wow this thriller is intense—ohhhh, it's also a romantic comedy, oh wait, it's a thriller. Aaaand now it's a drama. Romantic comedy again? Now it's a straight up comedy (courtesy of Jennifer Coolidge)...
But then: Oh wow...oh...wow.
4. The Soundtrack
Please try watching this film with someone and not saying out loud, "Oh my god, this soundtrack!"
I'll obviously let you enjoy for yourself, but I knew things were off to a good start when I heard "It's Raining Men." But then there was that karaoke version of Paris Hilton's hit sung in a pharmacy, and of course, that haunting Britney Spears remix and... OK, I'll stop. I did say I'd let you enjoy for yourself.
5. The Subject Matter
I find myself highly unqualified to fully explore in writing the importance of the subject matter of the film. But it is extremely important and extremely complex. I would say the scene between Mulligan and Britton pretty much encapsulates just how messed up our systemic approach to reporting sexual assault currently is and how people in power are often the ones preventing anything from being done about it.
It is Cassie's devotion to changing the system one man (and in several cases, woman) at a time that lays bare just how helpless and unprotected our flawed system has left rape victims. The subject matter is truly what makes this film a must-watch, rather than just a good film. It is what left me thinking about Cassie and Nina days later and what will remain at the forefront of my mind for quite some time. Please, give it a view.