News

Promising Young Woman First Reviews: Carey Mulligan "Blistering" As A #MeToo Avenger In Emerald Fennell's Ambitious and Fiery Debut

Forget what you think you know about Promising Young Woman, say critics at Sundance: This is like nothing you've seen.

by | January 26, 2020 | Comments

Promising Young Woman
(Photo by © Focus Features)

Killing Eve writer and season 2 showrunner Emerald Fennell’s debut feature film, Promising Young Woman, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival Saturday night and is already one of the fest’s buzziest titles. Marketed as a #MeToo revenge thriller – Cassie (Carey Mulligan) lures not-so-good guys home from the club by pretending to be blackout drunk, only to quickly come to when they get back to the pad and teach them a lesson – the film has much more than that on its mind, say first reviews. According to critics, Promising Young Woman is a candy-colored, pop-soundtracked black comedy (and tragedy and thriller and even a rom-com) that swings for the fences and mostly connects – largely thanks to an insightful script and show-stopping work from Mulligan. Though those who were drawn in by the pulpy trailer and poster may get more than they bargained for.

Here are what first reviews are saying about Promising Young Woman.


So, what exactly is Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman?

“Emerald Fennell’s raucous debut, ‘Promising Young Woman,’ twists its buzzword-laden, spoiler-free synopsis — it’s a #MeToo rape revenge thriller with bite! — into something fresh and totally wild.” – Kate Erbland, IndieWire

Promising Young Woman punches its way through rape culture with perfectly manicured nails and a sardonic lipstick smile, and in the end, you may find you’re the one who comes out bruised.” – Angie Han, Mashable

“…an unapologetically bold thriller rooted in the conversations about #MeToo, consent and slut-shaming.” – Monica Castillo, The Wrap

“Emerald Fennell’s ‘Promising Young Woman’ feels like an important addition in this new canon, an incendiary dramedy that confronts the trappings of the genre as well as societal complacency towards women who speak up against sexual predators.”- Hannah Woodhead, Little White Lies


Promising Young Woman
(Photo by © Focus Features)

What makes Cassie such a compelling heroine?

“Cassie is an anti-heroine for our times, and a wholly unique one at that…Fennell and Mulligan are unafraid to take [Cassie] her into territory dark enough to question if she’s actually the film’s antagonist, the wrong person to root for.” – Kate Erbland, IndieWire

“This isn’t a superhero story. Cassie is a real person consumed by vengeance, and while we can revel in her victories, Mulligan never lets us forget that this is not Batman. This is tragedy tempered only by the darkest of comedy.” – Matt Goldberg, Collider


We’re Hearing Carey Mulligan is Incredible in the role… 

“Mulligan is tremendous as Cassie… Her showiest moments come when Cassie is playing vigilante, her voice nearly a growl as she takes unsuspecting men to task for the crimes they were all too excited to commit just moments ago. But she wisely underplays the true depths of Cassie’s rage and anguish, refusing us the relief of emotional catharsis.” – Angie Han, Mashable

“…it’s a meticulous, candy-coloured fairy tale with a blistering central performance from Carey Mulligan that’s quite unlike anything she’s done before.” – Hannah Woodhead, Little White Lies

“Cassie wears her pickup-bait gear like bad drag; even her long blonde hair seems a put-on. The flat American accent she delivers in her lowest voice register likewise seems a bit meta, though it’s not quite clear what the quote marks around this performance signify. Still, like everything here, this turn is skillful, entertaining and challenging, even when the eccentric method obscures the precise message.” – Dennis Harvey, Variety

“Despite the exploitation elements, the actor isn’t tossing broad winks to the audience – she plays the pain and heartache and blistering anger of the character, straight. (She can really put a cold chill on a line like ‘I can’t begin to tell you how much I’ve thought about it.’)” – Jason Baily, The Playlist


Promising Young Woman
(Photo by © Focus Features)

Tell Us About the Killer Soundtrack and Stylized look of the film. 

“The film is filled with inspired soundtrack choices — a strings-heavy take on Britney Spears’ ‘Toxic’ teases before it reveals itself at the perfect moment, and an amusing use of an ‘It’s Raining Men’ cover sells Fennell’s pitch black sense of humor early on — adding a level of care that is sometimes lacking in other elements of the film.” – Kate Erbland, IndieWire

“The soundtrack features a parade of deliberately vapid pop tunes by the likes of Paris Hilton and the Spice Girls. Yet Anthony Willis’ original score is puzzlingly conventional and earnest, complete with ominous Dolby thumps every time justice is served.” – Dennis Harvey, Variety

“The sights and sounds of Promising Young Woman are unabashedly girlish…It’s an aesthetic choice that feels jarring at first, and then depressingly appropriate. What’s more feminine, after all, than having to deal day in and day out with the horrific ramifications of rape culture?” – Angie Han, Mashable


This isn’t just a straight-up revenge thriller, right?

“As Cassie attempts to balance two very disparate parts of her life, Fennell’s panache for genre-bending absolutely rules, and ‘Promising Young Woman’ manages to be funny and sexy and smart and absolutely terrifying, all in one stylish package.” – Kate Erbland, IndieWire

Promising Young Woman morphs into something more unexpected and complex, shifting in shape and tone a few times over its nearly two-hour run time. A cloud hangs over even its sunniest moments, and some its darkest reveals land with a bark of laugher.” – Angie Han, Mashable

“The movie’s tone shifts from suspenseful to fun, and there is plenty of that in-between some pretty bleak plot points that are alluded to but not fully explained until near the end of the movie.” – Monica Castillo, The Wrap

“Watching Promising Young Woman is like watching someone try to juggle brightly colored glass balls in the air. Some of them shatter on the ground, but you can’t help but be awed by the spectacle and the audacity.” – Matt Goldberg, Collider

Promising Young Woman
(Photo by © Focus Features)

Do the shifts in tone always work?

“Fennell’s biting script is occasionally punctuated with some big jumps and iffy payoffs, and Cassie’s short-lived turnaround is inspired by an unbelievable and thinly written sequence that doesn’t match the rest of her carefully planned missions.” – Kate Erbland, IndieWire

“With so much ambition in ‘Promising Young Woman,’ it feels like the movie wants to have its cake and eat it, too. Not every narrative turn feels germane to the story — some appear to be there simply because they’re unexpected.” – Monica Castillo, The Wrap


How Does Writer-Director Fennell Fare in the Transition from TV to film?

“An actress (currently playing Camilla Parker Bowles on ‘The Crown’) and writer (TV’s ‘Killing Eve,’ as well as three novels for younger readers), Fennell works from an arresting script (featured on the Black List in 2018) whose fluctuating levels of irony and dead-seriousness are further complicated — perhaps sometimes just obscured — by her idiosyncratic directorial choices.” – Dennis Harvey, Variety

“Remarkably, Fennell marries heavy subject matter with impressive lightness. Promising Young Woman is a black comedy at heart, with one awkward family dinner scene particularly memorable.” – Hannah Woodhead, Little White Lies

“Fennell’s primary writing credits of note were on the last season of ‘Killing Eve,’ and she’s got a real gift for flipping from dark comedy to honest pathos to ominous rumblings.” – Jason Baily, The Playlist

“I was absolutely floored by Promising Young Woman, not just because Fennell proves she’s already a master of her craft with her first feature film, but because it’s unapologetic in pointing out complicity.” – Matt Goldberg, Collider


No Spoilers, But What About That Ending?

“Fennell saves her (and Cassie’s) biggest surprises for its combustible final twenty minutes, taking risks that are admirable even when they don’t seem as if they’re going to pay off.” – Kate Erbland, IndieWire

“…its ending will prove, I’m certain, divisive. But there’s no denying that Fennell is playing with dynamite here, and knows it.” – Jason Baily, The Playlist



Finally, this all sounds a bit more complex than the trailer suggests… 

“What’s actually onscreen is much trickier than the cheerily titillating exploitation-horror suggested by its early slogan (‘Take her home and take your chances’) and blood-dripping poster design. ‘Species,’ this is not — nor even an updated ‘Ms. 45.’” – Dennis Harvey, Variety

“Though the trailer calls it ‘a delicious new take on revenge,’ that’s not entirely accurate. Yes, Promising Young Woman is about vengeance, but it’s far from appetising; on the contrary, what underlines this scathing tale is suffering and fury.” – Anthony Kaufman, Screen Daily

Promising Young Woman isn’t satisfied with the simple pleasures of revenge…. The deeper we go into Cassie’s world, the more difficult it becomes to ignore the blood and bruises underneath her hard candy-colored shell…” – Angie Han, Mashable


Promising Young Woman premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday, January 25. It is in theaters April 17, 2020. 

#1
#1
Adjusted Score: 99.141%
Critics Consensus: A boldly provocative, timely thriller, Promising Young Woman is an auspicious feature debut for writer-director Emerald Fennell -- and a career highlight for Carey Mulligan.
Synopsis: Everyone said Cassie (Carey Mulligan) was a promising young woman... until a tragic event abruptly derailed her future. Now she's... [More]
Directed By: Emerald Fennell

Like this? Subscribe to our newsletter and get more features, news, and guides in your inbox every week.

Tag Cloud

quibi Disney streaming service Ellie Kemper Super Bowl renewed TV shows 2019 halloween WGN Tumblr Turner Classic Movies cancelled TV shows documentary Photos 71st Emmy Awards ratings Showtime cancelled TV series game of thrones APB blaxploitation Apple TV Plus nature Grammys hist Awards toy story Best and Worst Nat Geo Comic Book CMT Acorn TV A&E Schedule Western series RT21 Sci-Fi Mindy Kaling Comics on TV TBS Teen Amazon Prime Marvel streaming Discovery Channel Paramount Sundance Martial Arts CNN Star Trek revenge cancelled television Animation 007 Fox News TCA Winter 2020 historical drama Dark Horse Comics screen actors guild Amazon Prime Video Trophy Talk Summer Food Network Sundance TV MTV Mystery TCA 2017 war Avengers adventure Holiday christmas movies Marathons romantic comedy RT History MCU Television Academy romance spider-man animated Lucasfilm TCM Fantasy comic Family Biopics zero dark thirty comics Pixar Lionsgate See It Skip It Nickelodeon spy thriller 2015 harry potter diversity travel natural history rotten movies we love facebook Drama Winter TV Starz Country dceu movie Film Festival werewolf Quiz sitcom Trailer Election festivals YouTube Hulu USA Network screenings Oscars psycho ESPN Binge Guide GLAAD American Society of Cinematographers Ovation Ghostbusters Crackle TLC cops Nominations Reality Certified Fresh National Geographic tv talk psychological thriller medical drama DirecTV Pride Month children's TV spanish language Disney Plus witnail FOX what to watch ghosts Disney Elton John First Reviews Sneak Peek SundanceTV Chilling Adventures of Sabrina mutant TNT TCA The Arrangement strong female leads Character Guide Holidays breaking bad Academy Awards OWN Black Mirror television dramedy dc sequel Peacock Sony Pictures directors Spike anthology Chernobyl theme song Mary poppins reboot biography TV renewals Syfy Netflix south america joker Premiere Dates cinemax Tarantino Universal cars Heroines Disney+ Disney Plus 2018 BET technology crossover President Logo Rock crime thriller Mary Poppins Returns USA 24 frames Epix IFC zombies hispanic Calendar dragons Toys Esquire Fall TV name the review ITV SDCC Interview transformers Apple TV+ Marvel Studios stand-up comedy Freeform jamie lee curtis FXX TIFF Spectrum Originals politics slashers finale docudrama cartoon E3 Extras composers Amazon Studios 2020 binge adaptation independent singing competition Reality Competition 20th Century Fox First Look Film mockumentary latino Vudu cancelled Baby Yoda Winners Cosplay Stephen King VICE DC streaming service Anna Paquin San Diego Comic-Con Christmas Lifetime Kids & Family science fiction A24 2017 batman crime Song of Ice and Fire serial killer Britbox NYCC canceled social media Women's History Month TV HBO Max Video Games Hallmark Christmas movies Set visit foreign zombie Rocky Spring TV discovery The Walking Dead DC Universe book 2016 Netflix Christmas movies game show elevated horror free movies based on movie X-Men Adult Swim miniseries unscripted dogs Countdown vampires Thanksgiving WarnerMedia casting richard e. Grant TV Land doctor who Comedy video space justice league canceled TV shows Infographic 21st Century Fox Lifetime Christmas movies Opinion police drama Crunchyroll New York Comic Con indie Pet Sematary boxoffice cooking Box Office LGBTQ Classic Film 45 Paramount Network Hallmark Cannes OneApp Cartoon Network disaster crime drama sports Apple Shondaland Star Wars LGBT AMC NBC movies ABC Family Polls and Games Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt golden globes CW Seed ABC PBS Horror Shudder aliens The Witch blockbuster Pirates DGA Comedy Central spinoff political drama FX Turner VH1 SXSW anime Bravo Musicals green book PaleyFest Amazon thriller Masterpiece IFC Films Emmys comiccon supernatural Captain marvel Walt Disney Pictures Brie Larson BBC Rocketman Mary Tyler Moore Endgame Musical Action Disney Channel award winner The CW Watching Series kids Trivia period drama talk show versus TruTV YouTube Premium Emmy Nominations E! CBS Podcast Pop Awards Tour History YouTube Red Year in Review spain Arrowverse robots The Purge Superheroes MSNBC DC Comics Marvel Television true crime Columbia Pictures CBS All Access El Rey Writers Guild of America Warner Bros. teaser Red Carpet cults Tomatazos Music cats GoT Rom-Com sag awards YA Superheroe BBC America GIFs Tubi HBO Creative Arts Emmys Mudbound Valentine's Day Sundance Now