sábado, 10 de abril de 2021


 By Kate Aurthur, Matt Donnelly

At the first test screening for “Promising Young Woman,” writer-director Emerald Fennell wanted to sit in the back so she could gauge the audience’s reaction. When the lights went down, she was stricken with terror. “I thought, ‘No, oh, my gosh, what if everyone hates it?’” she remembers. “This is a nightmare!”

And so it was. During the film’s surprising and brutal climax, two audience members entered into a shouting match, with one of them yelling, “If you don’t like it, you don’t have to stay!” The other walked out. “That’s not what you necessarily want from your first test screening,” Fennell says.

Her leading lady, Carey Mulligan, disagrees. Recalling the film’s electric premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January, Mulligan says: “No one was sitting comfortably in their seats. You could feel their stomach muscles all tightened up. I think that really is a rare thing. It does provoke a reaction that is unlike anything I’ve seen in a long time.”

That’s the promise of “Promising Young Woman,” a radical, genre-blending thriller that introduces Fennell as both a distinct cinematic voice and a blunt social commentator. Mulligan stars as Cassie, a former medical student whose life has been derailed by the rape of her best friend, Nina. After dropping out of school to care for the broken Nina, who is never seen in the movie, Cassie is adrift and boiling over with rage.

Her days are spent slinging coffee at a local café, and tiptoeing around her exasperated and worried parents (played by Jennifer Coolidge and Clancy Brown). Her nights are spent feigning reckless drunkenness, baiting toxic bros dressed in business casual to swoop in to take advantage of her — only to reveal she’s stone-cold sober. She then confronts and shames them about their predatory behavior.

When the perpetrators behind Nina’s rape and its subsequent cover-up resurface, Cassie’s dark hobby escalates into a revenge mission. At the same time, a new love interest, Ryan (Bo Burnham), shows Cassie a different path — if she finds the will to move on.

Drenched in neon pink and baby-blue hues, “Promising Young Woman” looks playful on its surface, but yanks the rug out from under viewers. Among other things, the film is a stunningly unapologetic indictment of men and the societal mechanisms that support rape culture.

“It’s a sort of beautifully wrapped candy, and when you eat it you realize it’s poisonous,” Mulligan says of the film.

Yet if these descriptions make “Promising Young Woman” sound dogmatic, or strident, it never is: Against all odds, given its subject matter, the movie is fun as hell. “Promising Young Woman” combines elements from revenge movies, romantic comedies and suspense thrillers — brewed together to create something volcanic.

Peter Kujawski, head of the film’s distributor, Focus Features, says of Fennell’s film that the “hair on my arms stood up watching the first cut of this movie, and the realization of what she’s done here. Not only is it the degree of achievement, which we think is at the highest level, but it’s about the boldness.”

“We want audiences to know that, love it or hate it, you have to show up — because we’re delivering you a real jolt,” Kujawski continues.

That jolt comes from first-time filmmaker Fennell, an actor (she plays Camilla Parker Bowles on “The Crown” and was on “Call the Midwife” for several seasons), screenwriter-producer (she ran the second season of “Killing Eve”) and writer of horror novels. Fennell knew she wanted to direct when she began “screenwriting in earnest,” she says, because she found it hard to describe exactly what she meant tonally, and found that having created a world in her writing, she had the desire to “deliver that world, and make it fully realized” on-screen.

Fennell, who’s 35, the same age as Mulligan, developed “Promising Young Woman” in 2017 with Margot Robbie’s company, LuckyChap Entertainment, which came on board as producer immediately after hearing her pitch: the movie’s cold open, in which Cassie surprises a potential rapist by dropping her drunken act. LuckyChap co-founder Josey McNamara says their reaction was “Whatever the rest of it is, we want to do it.”

The script did terrify some potential investors, McNamara says, who worried about the film’s ending, or about the audience’s potential response: “Emerald was very strong, and was sticking to her guns about how she saw the movie.” The right partners arrived in sales agent FilmNation and, later, distributor Focus Features. “FilmNation very much saw the movie the way that we and Emerald did, and were very supportive in promoting that vision,” says McNamara, adding that Focus was “very confident in what she would deliver and that it would pay off.”

If there was ever a thought that Robbie might play Cassie — yes, she was tempted. “This was a hard one to step aside for,” Robbie says. “But I felt like I would perhaps be the kind of Cassie people might expect, you know? And I feel like someone like Carey — we just haven’t seen her do this. She brings gravitas to it.”………………….


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