The 2021 Best Picture Nominees: Promising Young Woman

| April 22, 2021

At last!  After, arguably, the strangest year in movie history, The 93rd Academy Awards are almost here – just 9 days from now.  And to get ready, I’m taking a look at each of the eight films selected as Oscar’s best.  Are they?  Are they really?

Okay, so this year’s Best Picture nominees made a wide swath of current issues dealing with radicals, revolutionaries, racism, the fracturing of the American dream and two prerequisite dramas that focus on a specific disability.  What’s missing?  Oh yeah!  The Me-Too movement!  And for this, we get a revenge fantasy. 

Promising Young Woman is a generally entertaining, if woefully uneven, movie.  It never takes its issues lightly but it doesn’t exactly have its feet on the ground.  The basic template works.  Here is a movie featuring a four-barrel performance by the invaluable (and nominated) Cary Mulligan as a young woman who devotes her daylight hours to getting revenge on the men who think it just fine to drug and rape vulnerable young women and the institutions that casually turn a blind eye.

Of this, the movie is a crowd pleaser and I was happy that director (and nominee) Emerald Fennell allows the film some extreme discomfort (such as an extended scene in a college dean’s office) and I admire her sucker punch of an ending that might have drawn massive applause from theater audiences in different times. 

But . . .

I wonder if such a hard-charging issue is right for a revenge fantasy.  Issues of date rape, gang rape and indifference from the collegiate community are, to my mind, just too important to be wrapped up in a cotton candy fantasy like this.  For 2020, I might have suggested the much more sobering Never Rarely Sometimes Always as a Best Picture nominee.  Therein lies a story about a girl seeking to abort a pregnancy wrought from circumstances of pressure and violence.  That film is grounded in a hard reality that I missed here, and I think it’s a much better film.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(2021) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized