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‘Promising Young Woman’ Stands Out From The Pack of Female Revenge Movies

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Promising Young Woman

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Promising Young Woman, written and directed by Emerald Fennell and starring Carey Mulligan, is a tough film to classify, which is one of several reasons it’s so noteworthy. Its hook, at least for its first third, seems like one for an exploitation film. Mulligan plays Cassie, a med-school dropout who unhappily lives with her unhappy parents. They wonder why she often stays out all night. They suspect that her coffee-house gig can’t be that demanding.

They’re right. What Cassie does on certain evenings is go to bars and clubs, pretends to be near-blackout drunk, and allows herself to be brought home by men who initially claim they’re just making sure she’s safe. When these guys have her at their homes, and feel confident enough to start putting their hands on her, Cassie “snaps out” of her state. And a lesson begins.

The subgenre of revenge movies we can specifically term revenge-on-men movies isn’t a huge one, but it has come in a variety of shapes and sizes, from Truffaut’s The Bride Wore Black (French New Wave noir) to The First Wives’ Club (splashy mainstream comedy) to Kill Bill, Volumes 1 and 2 (Tarantino).

THE GIRL MOST LIKELY TO..., Ed Asner. Daniel Spelling, Stockard Channing, 1973
Photo: Everett Collection

A peculiar but not insignificant progenitor of Promising Young Woman came from the pen of caustic comic Joan Rivers. The 1973 ABC TV “Movie of the Week” The Girl Most Likely To… riffs

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