‘Promising Young Woman’ is a revenge thriller for the #metoo generation

by Gordon Shelly

In 1978 Meir Zarchi directed the now infamous I Spit on Your Grave —  a horrific tale about a young woman who is assaulted and raped by a group of men, then in turn seeks revenge, horrifically killing each of her attackers one-by-one-by-one. The movie is brutal and a difficult watch, but it essentially spawned a genre, the revenge thriller. I Spit on Your Grave has inspired sequels and remakes and many copycats. Promising Young Woman is made from the same mold, less brutal, but with the same intent.

Promising Young Woman’s protagonist is a young woman named Cassie (Carey Mulligan), who was traumatized by an event that happened while in college that led her to dropping out of med school.  Now, seven years later, Cassie is consumed with revenge –- and in a variety of different ways. Cassie wants revenge anywhere she can find it. She looks for predators who might be willing to commit horrific acts against women in the present. And, she looks for ways to find vengeance on those who wronged her in the past.  Through her own predatory behavior, we slowly learn what happened to her in the past and how it turned her into the person she is now.

As a viewer, we are not quite sure whether or not we should be rooting for Cassie. We absolutely sympathize with her, but root for her, well, you’ll have to decide that for yourself. The movie is sometimes funny, often very dramatic, immensely intense, and other times difficult to watch. The movie is visually amazing and the soundtrack keeps us off-balance. The movie is very well acted and has some great actors in small roles including Alfred Molina, Clancy Brown, Jennifer Coolidge, Molly Shannon, and Christopher Mitz-Plasse.

The movie also serves as a warning to young women as  to the predatory nature of men in a misogynistic society, that so often rewards the predator and forgets the victim. However, as we learn the catalyst for Cassie’s actions, it is uncertain whether she is truly justified in the blood trail she endeavors to leave behind. The final act of Promising Young Woman is explosive and intense and doesn’t necessarily answer the questions in the most satisfying way, but it doesn’t necessarily intend to. Ultimately the viewer must decide how to feel about Cassie, her actions, and her ultimate outcome.

Gordon’s Grade:  B