Promising Young Woman is a Pepto-pink revenge saga about a 720p character who’s a 30-year-old HD med-school dropout, wears fluffy sweaters and rose-adorned dresses to her day job as a barista, but she’s hostile and sharp underneath them, a brass knuckle in an angora mitten.
Promising Young Woman is the directorial debut of actor and writer Emerald Fennell, who between playing Camilla on The Crown and showrunning Killing Eve season two, has been positioned as a possible next big thing in the free streaming World.
The film isn’t in danger of dissipating that hype, infact it is available to watch for free on many streaming platforms. Fennell’s got a flair for coating incendiary subject matter with a sugar shell of hyperfemininity, an aesthetic sense that encompasses everything from her heroine’s enviable Easter-hued manicure to the cupcake-laden display at the coffee shop where she works.
In the “Stars Are Blind” scene, Cassie wears pink and Ryan wears blue. The colors recur throughout their relationship, subtly coding them as different creatures even in their most intimate moments. But the film also employs pink throughout to play with people’s assumptions about certain kinds of women and certain kinds of art.
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Cassie’s styling evokes an Instagram celeb-ready softness, the camera at one point gliding admiringly up her back to take in her high-waisted jeans, floral top, and tendril braid as she leans over the counter reading a book during a slow stretch. She’s not at all approachable, but she’s fluent in how to present herself as such in sometimes disturbing ways.
Girlishness isn’t a contrast to darkness in Promising Young Woman but incidental to it, the two perfectly capable of coexisting. Less harmonious are the two modes in which the 720p film operates. Cassie didn’t just torch her dreams of being an HD doctor on a whim — her life went off the rails after something very bad happened to her late best friend.
But Cassie’s romance also sets Promising Young Woman up for a big finish that has to contend with the complicated question it’s been skirting all along — one of reconciliation versus retribution, and whether there’s any benefit to holding fast to rage forever, no matter how warranted.
The movie’s hyperreality and its take on intimate politics feel unmistakably contemporary, but its pop-cultural cues hint at a reckoning with the recent past. We won’t reveal too much, but the event that unmoored Cassie happened almost a decade ago.
Rebekka Hong is the kind of girl you can blindly trust when it comes to Anime, Movies, and Games. Being born and grown up in Tokyo, rebekka has attended many Pre-release parties of countless Video Games, Movies, and Anime series. Her in-depth reports on Anime and Movies can surely make anyone fall in love with her again and again.