‘Promising, Young Woman’ is the female ‘Breaking Bad’

A woman with nothing to lose

Carey Mulligan in ‘Promising, Young Woman’

Margot Robbie’s fledgling production company, LuckyChap Entertainment, has gotten off to a rocky start. It’s first four films: I,Tonya, Terminal, Dreamland, and Birds of Prey had less than stellar reviews and no particularly significant returns at the box office. Some people blamed the writing, others blamed promotions, and some actually blamed Robbie herself. She cast herself in the title role of all four of those first four films. People claimed that she had a bad eye for casting in that she cast herself.

Robbie is obviously quite striking and easy on the eyes, which works great when the role calls for a movie star. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work quite as well when the role requires someone who is a little more relatable. It’s the same problem someone like Scarlett Johansson or Gal Gadot might face. They’re nice to look at, but it’s hard for the average person to feel much sympathy for them on screen when they look the way they do.

At LuckyChap Entertainment, Robbie, along with her partners Tom Ackerley, Josey McNamara, and Sophia Kerr, set out to create a production company that would highlight and promote female talent in Hollywood. Hollywood is notoriously sexist, having very few leading roles for women, and almost no roles at all for women over a certain age. One could argue that that is just how the business works; men are the ones who overwhelmingly see movies and therefore it makes sense for men to be the ones to create the entertainment. But, that possibly imposes the wrong correlation and furthermore, in this day and age, doesn’t provide a very good excuse.

But Robbie & Co. seem to have finally figured it out with ‘Promising, Young Woman.’

It is best to avoid explaining too much of what the movie is about to avoid ruining the movie. Part of the fun of the movie is in trying to figure out what exactly is the main character’s motivation. Already knowing the plot won’t completely ruin the movie, but it is best to go in not knowing anything. Part mystery, part thriller; the film is essentially about a woman who has had her life destroyed and is obsessed with revenge.

Fans of filmed entertainment will be familiar with the anti-hero trope. Films like Death Wish, Falling Down, Breaking Bad, Crank, V for Vendetta, Punisher, Scarface, Cool Hand Luke, Logan, Dirty Harry, Die Hard, Mad Max, Fight Club, and American Beauty, all revolve around the idea of a character who has nothing to lose, getting revenge on the person or society that has imposed their own mental anguish upon them.

Most of the time, this trope revolves around a male protagonist. So it’s very, very interesting, and really fun to watch this same trope be applied to a female protagonist. And Margot Robbie is demonstrating her growth and evolution as a producer by casting Carey Mulligan in the lead role. Not intending to say anything disparaging about Robbie, but she would have been abysmal in this role. Being able to recognize that shows how Robbie is developing as a producer.

And Carey Mulligan, who typically plays the sweet, cute, innocent character in most of her roles lays down a shocking performance that is almost certain to land her an Oscar nomination.

And let’s not forget the outstanding direction by newcomer Emerald Fennel (The Crown, The Danish Girl). The direction of the movie is almost a cross between Wes Anderson and Ivan Reitman. It has well positioned and interesting shots with a pace that clips along without leaving the viewer feeling bored.

So, in a year that has left many film nerds feeling terribly under satiated Promising, Young Woman is a welcome breath of fresh air. And while some critics may feel a bit attacked by the, dare I say, #metoo-ness of it, the film shines a light on a subject that is very important and doesn’t get nearly enough attention. It’s an Oscar contender that won’t win awards simply for being art, but for being art and entertainment.

Chase is a freelance writer based out of Kansas City. He writes mostly about technology, business, and culture. Follow him on twitter @ChaseBAnderson.

Freelance writer and professional gig-worker. I mostly write about the impact of technology on business & culture. Find me on twitter @chasebanderson.

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