Yes, yes. Buses. Nothing for ages then two in one day. Go on, say it.
Actually, due to my infrequent/non-existent posting of late, I’m late posting this. I thought the Oscars were on tonight, but it turns out they were on last night so I’ve missed the chance to look cool and clever and ahead of the curve on the film I want to write about, which is up for five awards, including Best Picture. As I write this (early Monday morning), it’s won Best Original Screenplay; I’ll update this post should that be added to as I’m writing. (PS: it wasn’t.)
There was talk a couple of years ago about whether Netflix original content, which had never been shown in movie theatres, should be recognised by the Oscars, but now, with the event of Covid – where pretty much nothing has been shown in cinemas for over a year, along with two other massive media corporations – Amazon and Sky – joining in the fun, there wasn’t really any way this content could be ignored anymore.
And it’s a film from Sky’s output that I want to flag to you today, specifically Promising Young Woman. If you’ve not seen it yet, redress that as soon as possible (if you can) before some idiot spoils it for you. I’ll try to avoid giving you any major spoilers.
We first meet central character Cassie (played, brilliantly, by Carey Mulligan – married to a Mumford as she is, her choice in life-partner is questionable even if her keen eye for a great role cannot be faulted, and man alive can she act – she’s done lots since but those of us who remember her breakthrough in an episode of (Tennant era) Dr Who – Blink, also often referred to as the episode the Doctor barely appears in, have known for long time what she is capable of) seemingly passed out in a bar. Three male office types at the bar see her; one, claiming chivalrous intentions, approaches her, offers to make sure she gets home okay. Home becomes his home rather than hers, and before you know it, he is taking advantage of this drunk woman, unable to resist, protest or fight him off.
Except Cassie isn’t drunk. She isn’t vulnerable. She’s very much in control, and she’s teaching guys like this a lesson.
As well as learning that invaluable lesson (which I would hope most of you knew already), we learn that Cassie is in her early thirties, works in a coffee shop and still lives with her parents, who needless to say keep dropping very unsubtle hints about wanting her to move out. Props to the casting crew here for picking Jennifer Coolidge – Stiffler’s Mom from the American Pie series as Cassie’s mother and Clancy Brown – perhaps best known as the evil bastard warden in The Shawshank Redemption (yes, that’s where you recognised him from) – who both play against type and are brilliant. When nerdy but determined love interest and paediatrician Ryan (Bo Burnham) shuffles awkwardly into her life, they are delighted, and we also learn that Cassie used to be a promising medical student, until she dropped out.
For a while it seems Ryan is going to be the catalyst to shake her out of her rut, and in a way he is, just not in the way expected. If this were your standard rom-com, then meeting Ryan would ultimately end up being the life-changing event which makes her stop her one woman correction-centre ways. Instead her focus switches to gaining some semblance of vengeance against those she considers culpable for the gang rape, subsequent cover-up and then suicide of her best friend at medical school, Nina. This, it transpires, has been the impetus behind her actions all along, it just took Ryan’s appearance – and his own back story – to make her become more focused in her actions.
I’ll venture no further plot-wise for fear of spoiling things. Suffice it so say that this film comes with a massive thumbs up recommend from me.
And, as you would expect from something I’m recommending, there are some great musical moments in the film too.
For a start, there’s the inclusion of this song, and a sequence which, just for a few moments, makes it okay to like it:
And then, at a point where you fear just how dark this film is prepared to go, you notice the strings on the soundtrack, wonder how long they’ve been playing for and then suddenly you recognise them and know: bad things are about to happen.
An honorable mention for this:
And then, at the end, there’s this, a song which I could have sworn had popped up on these pages before, but I can’t find any such post now. When it arrives in the film, it’s just so perfectly placed because…no, no spoilers. Let’s just say that the whole thing had me standing up and applauding.
Dammit, I want to watch it again now.
It would be easy to characterise Promising Young Woman as a #MeToo movie, but it’s so much more than just a hashtag. It’s smart, funny and shocking in unequal measures. It’s a film which every man needs to watch to learn a valuable lesson, and every woman should watch to confirm they’re not alone in their experience.
Promising Young Woman is available on NOWTV and Sky.