Promising young woman
Verdict: Starkly comic revenge thriller
The year the Earth changed
Verdict: Animal Magic
Promising Young Woman arrives on our screens today, freshly anointed with a pair of BAFTAs, for Outstanding British Film and Best Original Screenplay. That’s the kind of promotional thrust money can’t buy. At least we assume that this is not possible.
You might know by now that the debutante is writer-director Emerald Fennell, who made a very different kind of impression with a charismatic performance as the confident young Camilla Parker Bowles in The Crown.
One of the producers is Margot Robbie, who was the victim of sexual harassment in the 2019 movie Bombshell and a seductive Sharon Tate in Once Upon A Time of the same year. In Hollywood.
Carey Mulligan stars as ‘Cassandra’ in director Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman
It seems fitting that the movie industry that spawned the #MeToo movement is taking advantage of this in the form of some great movies about predatory men, even if some of them are driven by agendas in the same indecent way chariots are in biblical epics. driven by Romans, so enraged that every now and then a wheel comes loose.
Shortly after that opening scene, we meet Cassie, hanging on a couch, seemingly drunk
Promising Young Woman solves this problem by presenting herself as a black comedy. The comedy is well hidden at times, but it’s there if you look closely enough, right from the first shot of male crotches pumping onto the dance floor of an American nightclub. That’s an image we normally get from women. Fennell is clearly out to turn the tables.
Her protagonist is Carey Mulligan, who gives a performance that earned her a Best Actress nomination at the upcoming Academy Awards. Mulligan plays Cassandra, whose namesake in Greek mythology led the god Apollo, then withdraw her favors. In a 21st-century sense, this also happens here.
Shortly after that opening scene, we meet Cassie, hanging on a couch, seemingly drunk. One of a group of men hanging out at the bar sees her less as a woman in need of help than as a sexual opportunity.
They go back to his place and everything seems to be going for him when Cassie suddenly, with a conspiratorial ‘Fleabag’ look straight into the camera, jumps out of her feigned stupor. She’s on a mission, it turns out, to trap predators who don’t recognize a drunken woman’s obscure protests as the only reason to stop. But her missionary zeal is all-consuming. At thirty she works in a coffee shop, lives with her parents and has left medical school, where she was a wonderful student. She’s unhealthily obsessed, but why? Well, Fennell’s screenplay only drops hints for the first third of the movie, so I won’t be issuing spoilers here.
What I can say is that it is a relief to her, her parents, and indeed to us, when Cassie goes out with Ryan (Bo Burnham), a lovely self-deprecating pediatric surgeon who saw her in medical school from afar. Could her relationship distract her from her mission?
Far from it, it turns out, because in another nod to Greek mythology, Ryan leads her to her Nemesis.
Mulligan’s performance earned her a Best Actress nomination at the upcoming Academy Awards
Carey Mulligan (front) starring Cassie and Bo Burnham playing the character Ryan
In the meantime, the film has become an outright revenge thriller, although unlike, for example, Fatal Attraction from 1987, the unstable woman has all the moral strength here. Perhaps that’s a reflection of how cinematic sensibilities have changed not so much in the past 34 years as only in the past four years.
Regardless, there’s almost a Western vibe as the story evolves towards a surprising resolution, with Cassie targeting all those she believes deserve punishment for past behavior one by one.
Mulligan is gorgeous all around, and anyone who also saw her as the unspeakably English, posh, grounded Edith Pretty in the recent Netflix movie The Dig should definitely applaud her impressive versatility. Actually, I thought both performances were worthy of BAFTA’s Best Actress shortlist. Unfortunately, she was completely overlooked. But at least Fennell got her gong for the best original screenplay for what is undoubtedly also a directorial debut of power and promise.
From a promising young woman to an experienced old man. Every new David Attenborough documentary should be cause for celebration, but that’s especially true in the case of The Year Earth Changed, which shows how, despite the plague on humanity caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the natural earth in countless ways.
There are less stunning visuals than in most of the nature documentaries narrated by the big man, probably because this one has been rushed out by definition. Nonetheless, it is immensely comforting to get compelling evidence time and again of the thriving of animals while humans languished in confinement.
In the ocean off Alaska, for example, humpback whales can literally hear each other speak, now there is no disturbing cruise traffic. One researcher offers a pleasant human analogy: that it is much easier to communicate in a quiet coffee shop than in a busy bar.
In the ocean off Alaska, for example, humpback whales can literally hear each other speak, now there is no disturbing cruise traffic
A leopard sneaks close to civilization
Well, the whales have finally gotten their chance at the coffee shop. And the film, directed by Tom Beard, shows us beautiful images of a humpback whale mother leaving her calf as she goes to feed, on the premise that if she needs her, she will hear it calling. She had never been able to leave his side in the past.
The question is, of course, whether we can learn from this and ensure that the benefits for nature are permanent. It is promising that they are working in Alaska on legislation that will force cruise ships to at least sail slower and therefore quieter: a whale of an improvement.
- Promising Young Woman can be seen in Sky Cinema and NOW from today.
- The Year Earth Changed can be seen on Apple TV + starting today.
Superheroes foiled by a deadly script
Verdict: A moist squib
Melissa McCarthy might be forgiven for producing and playing this feeble superhero parody, which is only laughable in the sense of being ridiculously not funny; her husband, Ben Falcone, is the writer and director.
She duly gives it everything in her power, madly grinding and silly voices when all else fails, by which she means the script. But it is not enough. And so is her mildly disturbing double act with Octavia Spencer, who looks uncomfortable all over, as if she’s absent-mindedly intruded into someone else’s dubious comedy career.
The pair play former school friends whose paths have diverged dramatically since then. Emily (Spencer) has become a famous technology mogul, while Lydia (McCarthy) is stuck in Chicago’s old working-class neighborhood.
Melissa McCarthy as Lydia and Octavia Spencer as Emily in Thunder Force
But after years of alienation, they reunite to face off against the evil Miscreants, super-powered criminals who haunt the city.
In ways far too foolish to explain, Lydia gains superhuman strength and gives Emily a cloak of invisibility, giving them a chance to resist a selfish politician (Bobby Cannavale) who has the miscreants in their pocket.
Thunder Force only has one bait, in the form of a Miscreant known as The Crab. Half human, half crustacean, with tongs for arms, he is amusingly played by Jason Bateman, with some good lines with characteristically relaxed self-confidence.
I laughed out loud, maybe twice. But without The Crab, the movie goes sideways.
- Thunder Force is now on Netflix.