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Promising Young Woman (2020) Review

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Promising Young Woman

Time: 101 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Violence, deals with rape and suicide
Cast:
Carey Mulligan as Cassandra “Cassie” Thomas
Bo Burnham as Dr. Ryan Cooper
Alison Brie as Madison McPhee
Clancy Brown as Stanley Thomas
Jennifer Coolidge as Susan Thomas
Laverne Cox as Gail
Chris Lowell as Al Monroe
Connie Britton as Dean Elizabeth Walker
Director: Emerald Fennell

Nothing in Cassie’s (Carey Mulligan) life is what it appears to be — she’s wickedly smart, tantalizingly cunning, and she’s living a secret double life by night. Now, an unexpected encounter is about to give Cassie a chance to right the wrongs from the past.

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Promising Young Woman was one of my most anticipated movies of 2020. From the trailer it looked interesting and bold, and Carey Mulligan looked like she was going to be fantastic in the lead role. Despite it being released a bit later than was originally planned, I actually did manage to watch Promising Young Woman in cinemas and I’m glad I did. Promising Young Woman is stylistic, provocative, excellently made and acted, and it is one of the best movies of 2020.

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I won’t say too much about the plot itself, because the less you know going in, the better the experience will be for you. The script from Emerald Fennell was great, I was invested for the entire of its runtime of 113 minutes. One thing worth noting is that the trailer is quite different and not quite representative of the movie. It’s not nearly as violent as I expected it to be (it was given a R18 in New Zealand). However, it was also more disturbing than I expected it to be. It is a little hard to categorise this movie, but the most accurate description I could give is that it is a dark drama and comedy with some thriller elements. The tone does jump all over the place sometimes, but for whatever reason, Fennell pulls it off. It was entertaining and funny at many points, and there’s even a prominent romantic subplot. At the same time the story is still very dark, and a lot of disturbing things happen in it. With the subject matter alone, I can see it potentially being a bit triggering for some people, so keep that in mind before watching. For the most part you don’t really see anything graphic, but rape and sexual assault are nonetheless very prominent aspects of the movie. I’ve seen some people call the movie a bit shallow and honestly I can see why to a degree, even though it was handled much better than I was expecting.

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While Promising Young Woman is sort of a revenge movie, it’s a bit different from what you’d expect from it, taking some aspects in different directions. It might have you a bit confused in its first act as you try to figure out what’s happening, who the main character is, what is she doing, etc. I was on board with the movie throughout, but at a certain point it becomes much more mature and asks questions about the protagonist in a great way. With regard to the main character, the film does not demean her motivations, but it definitely asks if any of the things that she does is actually solving anything. It does slow down towards the middle of the film, but I still liked watching it. Then there’s the elephant in the room, the one aspect that could make or break the movie for many, the third act and particularly the ending. Without going into it too much, the ending goes in quite a different direction compared to the rest of the movie, and will be polarising for some people. Now I must admit that through certain circumstances, I already knew of the ending going into the movie, so it wasn’t as shocking for me like it was for others. Having said that, watching the movie from the perspective of someone who knew what was going to happen, to a degree I felt that it was the inevitable conclusion from looking at the overall story and the lead character. With that said, I can definitely see why some people take issue with it.

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The casting of everyone was pitch perfect. Carey Mulligan gives quite possibly the best performance of her career as lead character Cassie, she was the perfect person to play this role. She covers such a range of emotions over the course of the movie, and there’s even moments where it’s almost like she switches between 2 different personalities in a single scene. The trauma that is a living part of Cassie’s life (which I won’t reveal) doesn’t feel forced when the viewer watches Mulligan act. There’s a lot of nuance to it, and it isn’t just sadness vibes to reflect her trauma. Overall, Carey Mulligan gave such a thrilling, complex performance, she completely owned the role and understood the character so well. The supporting cast really brought so much to the table to make this film work as well. Bo Burnham is surprisingly great as Cassie’s boyfriend. Even if his character’s fairly predictable from a plot perspective, Bo makes the character his own and has excellent chemistry with Mulligan. Clancy Brown and Jennifer Coolidge were funny as Cassie’s parents, and their scenes helped fill out her character in a satisfying way. Other cast members like Alison Brie, Alfred Molina and more also do well in their few (but vital) scenes.

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It’s not just the script from Emerald Fennell that was great, it was her direction of the movie too. This is her debut feature film, and it’s definitely a bold and impressive debut at that. Promising Young Woman is meticulously directed on all fronts. First of all, visually it’s absolutely stunning. The visual element of this film is intoxicating, and Fennell seems to have an already established style that feels signature to her. The use of colour is particularly fantastic. Fennell didn’t overlook one production element down to the set design, to the costume design. The sound design was great and stood out too surprisingly, seeing this in a theatre emphasised this and allowed me to really experience it. The use of music and the music choices themselves are fantastic across the board. The amount of well timed needle drops and the sound mix came together to put you directly in Cassandra’s headspace. For example, there’s one moment where it features a violin rendition of Brittany Spears’s Toxic, and it added so much to the scene it was included in.

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Promising Young Woman is an unpredictable, well crafted, shocking, and timely movie. It’s excellently written and directed, and the casting is perfect, with Carey Mulligan giving her best performance yet. Now it’s for sure one of the most controversial and polarising movies of 2020, and it won’t work for everyone, but I think it’s one of the best movies from that year.

The Disaster Artist (2017) Review

Time: 103 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast
James Franco as Tommy Wiseau
Dave Franco as Greg Sestero
Seth Rogen as Sandy Schklair
Alison Brie as Amber
Ari Graynor as Juliette Danielle
Josh Hutcherson as Philip Haldiman
Jacki Weaver as Carolyn Minnott
Zac Efron as Dan Janjigian
Director: James Franco

Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) and Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) become friends after meeting each other in an acting class in San Francisco. Hoping to achieve Hollywood stardom, Sestero moves to Los Angeles and signs on to appear in his buddy’s project. Financed with his own money, Wiseau writes, directs and stars in “The Room,” a critically maligned movie that becomes a cult classic.

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The Disaster Artist is one of my most anticipated films of all time. The Room has become a uniquely iconic film that I love for the same reason that many other people love it, because of how bizarrely and hilariously bad it is. I read the book about the behind the scenes of The Room titled The Disaster Artist (written by Greg Sestero) and I was immediately hyped when I saw that they were going to adapt it to the big screen. With James Franco (who both stars and directs), Dave Franco, Seth Rogen and more involved, I couldn’t help but be excited. The Disaster Artist was so great, it was pretty much everything I wanted it to be.

I will admit that it’s been years since I’ve actually read The Disaster Artist so I can’t remember exactly if everything in the movie is accurate to the book but I do think that at least most of it is right. One thing I loved is how this movie wasn’t just a piss take of The Room, it could’ve easily become that. You can tell that everyone who worked on this movie loved The Room and wanted to bring he story behind all that to the big screen. And they really achieved that. Don’t expect this to be just a story about The Room. This film almost feels like its in two parts, one is Tommy and Greg as friends trying to get into Hollywood and then the other is the filming of The Room. There was a good balance of drama and comedy overall, the movie is hilarious (it’ll be particularly funny for fans of The Room) but it also allows you to be invested in this story.

One question that immediately is asked by many when it comes to The Disaster Artist is whether you necessarily needed to have watched The Room beforehand. I’ll say this: you can watch The Disaster Artist without watching The Room but you won’t get the full experience, at the very least try to learn about it and/or watch some clips from it. Fans of The Room will love it, and the best part is that it doesn’t ruin the experience of The Room, it’s a great accompany piece and if anything it makes it even better and helps you appreciate it more. The story of The Disaster Artist is quite inspiring, Tommy Wiseau set out with a dream and ultimately fulfilled that dream. It may have not been exactly what he wanted or expected but he made it in the end. And I think that was shown greatly. Make sure to wait for the post credits scene.

James Franco is absolutely fantastic as Tommy Wiseau. To be honest, the portrayal and performance of Tommy was something I was worried about going in. Franco is a good actor but I’d doubt the performance of any actor cast as Tommy because it can’t just be an impression, he needs to full embody Wiseau as a person (and I read The Disaster Artist, so I knew about some of the things that happened). And he did that. You do not see James Franco, you see Tommy Wiseau. He also portrays Tommy as a real person, it shows his weirdness and doesn’t shy away from how troublesome he was during the shooting of The Room, much of which consists with his very bizarre filmmaking decisions. But it also allows you to really see him as a human being trying to fulfil his dream. Both aspects are balanced well. It poses questions about him that everyone to this day is asking (like how old is he, where was he born and where does he get his seemingly endless supply of money) but it never answers them, still keeping the mystery of Tommy Wiseau. Dave Franco shouldn’t be overlooked either, this is probably the best performance I’ve seen from him. Despite the two being brothers, you quickly forget that, the two share such great chemistry and feel like best friends. There are also a lot of good actors in supporting roles with Seth Rogen, Alison Brie, Ari Graynor, Josh Hutcherson, Jacki Weaver and Zac Efron, and they are all great here. I do wish that we got a little more of the supporting cast, especially those who played the people who worked on The Room. They are great in their screentime though. There are also some really enjoyable cameos that I won’t spoil.

This film is directed quite well by James Franco. The recreations of The Room were done very well, it is surprising how much attention to detail they had, if you are a fan of The Room you will appreciate these parts a lot. Also the makeup on James Franco was great, making him look as much like Tommy Wiseau as possible without being too over the top.

I had high expectations of The Disaster Artist and it absolutely delivered. The performances were fantastic (from both Francos particularly), the story is great, it is entertaining and for fans of The Room such as myself, it is an absolute must see. Honestly it is a bit of an inspiring movie as well, an very unconventionally inspirational movie. The Disaster Artist is one of my favourite movies of the year and I couldn’t be happier to say that.