REVIEW: “PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN” (2020) Focus Features

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Emerald Fennell is tackling the “paybacks are a bitch” scenario putting front and center the toxic behaviour we have all experienced at one time or another as women as she turns the tables and changes the game in a whole new way with her directorial debut here in “PROMISING YOUNG WOMEN”. This is also hands down probably 2020’s best film of the year, along with it being the one that you MUST see for yourself and not read the spoilers before seeing it as it was made to be entertaining, but also very BLUNT to get an important message across. ‘Promising Young Woman’ challenges at every turn the idea of what a “good guy” actually is.

Like so many other films have done before it, the movie gives us an incredible new take on the anger I think a lot of women feel, but it also doesn’t completely vilify men as a gender purely because they are men. Fennell’s stellar direction is so meticulous as it zigs exactly when you think it’s going to zag and zags exactly when you think it’s going zig with twists and turns during every jaw-dropping second of it.

Doing my absolute best to give you the outlining of the plot without a massive spoiler the jist is: Carey Mulligan plays Cassandra Thomas, a brilliant former med student who seemingly had a bright future until a disturbing event clearly turned her life upside down. It’s an event so stunning that we the audience don’t know what it is, but it’s affected her life in a grave manner. As we slowly watch and find out those said events unfold, just turned 30 year old Cassie still lives at home with her parents Susan (Jennifer Coolidge) and Stanley (Clancy Brown), works at a coffee shop, and doesn’t date or have any friends. But by night, she sits in a club, face down in a red leatherette booth, seemingly black out drunk. It’s a nightly routine – she goes to a club, acts too drunk to stand, and waits for a “nice” guy to come over and see if she’s okay. Needless to say Cassie leads a very different life as there is definitely something else here at play as she attempts to right a past wrong, very cynically and calculating as she does so. So she is living this secret double life at night…until she isn’t..or is this one of those zig zags mentioned earlier? Again, this is for you to find out and find out you will as every single delicious moment of this thriller come at you over and over again.

Promising Young Woman also give us an impressive supporting cast. From Adam Brody as her first ‘conquest’ Jerry to Bo Burnham as our cutesy-type doctor RyanLaverne Cox as her delicately blunt boss Gail, and Alison Brie who nails her role as former medical school classmate Madison while demonstrating how truly insidious and internalized misogyny can be and how this type of toxic behavior is often normalized in both men and women. Max GreenfieldAlfred Molina, Molly Shannon and Connie Britton all show up for impressive performances and Chris Lowell as Al Monroe is a character no one will be forgetting any time soon. And then there is Carey and Oh Carey! what a performance this is. Her wicked-bad acting powers this film all the way through as she salutes what her character stands for – which is essentially all of us. Never have I seen her take something and truly encompass all that female rage, romance, heartbreak and horror brings us all, in one spectacular performance.

As a warning, the ending is difficult, but at the same time, you can’t see it ending any other way as it’s a cross between triggering, healing and educational all wrapped up and honestly it’s true – revenge has never looked so ‘promising’. Please go see it.

Grade: A+

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Review screening: Courtesy oGinberg/Libby PR

“PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN” IS OUT ON CHRISTMAS DAY IN THEATERS/DRIVE-INS WHERE AVAILABLE AND ON VOD IN JANUARY

REVIEW: “THE BIG SHORT” (2015) Paramount Pictures

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When Ryan Gosling’s character Jared Vennett asks the question to a room full of brokers.. “What’s that smell?” and answers it with “Opportunity” you know then and there to prepare yourself for a very different type of ride.

The film’s narrative is driven by four cynical, fringe Wall Streeter’s disgusted with the large banking institutions’ overriding greed for profits. Separately, but yet oddly together, they make the decision to capitalize on the ensuing housing market catastrophe and the financial meltdown of 2008 upon discovering the market frenzy is being driven by worthless collateral debt obligations.
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While I might never figure out how Director Adam McKay made deplorable humans, blinding fear, gut-wrentching outrage and delightful shaming so much fun to watch ~ He most definitely brought along his dark bag of laughs here, but planted them in such a way as to where we actually understood what was happening thanks to fun cameo explanations from the likes of Margot Robbie in a bubble bath, Anthony Bourdain cooking it right up, and even Selena Gomez gambling though her little monologue.

After a rather lengthy dizzying, yet delightful, character introduction, the film picks up pace as the drama begins to unfold. Dr. Michael Burry (Christian Bale), an eccentric financial analyst, with complete autonomy of an investment fund, uncovers variables in his economic forecast indicating a massive housing market collapse. He informs his higher up, Lawrence Fields (Tracy Letts), of his discovery and creates a financial prospectus. In essence, he creates a commodity of selling short on bundled mortgages.
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The bankers laugh themselves silly as they willingly sell Burry all the “insurance” he wants. Word quickly spreads of Burry’s perceived madness in a after-work cocktail scene. With interest piqued upon overhearing the Wall Street gossip of the day, Jared Vennett (Ryan Gosling), scoops up the aspects of Burry’s move. Soon, he sells it to a group led by Steve Carell’s real-life character, Mark Baum and convinces them to buy in.

As the debacle is in full free-fall, Baum struggles with disbelief as he and his group have bet against their own umbrella entity, Morgan Stanley. The final team that has uncovered the impending financial crisis, made up of two Wall Street rookie wanna-be’s, Jamie Shipley (Finn Wittrock) and Charlie Geller (John Magaro) who along with veteran trader turned-conspiracist Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt), also struggle with the imploding financial system caused by corporate greed and indifference
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With a mammoth cast, the acting in this movie is pristine with the whole ensemble cast being in top form. With that said however there were three stand out performances that somewhat break this mold.
Ryan Gosling might be the funniest as he narrates and embodies the fact that he’s a scum bag and just rolls with it, offering an entertainingly slick performance. Christian Bale let us feel his pain and lonely genius, stole the show in every scene he was in. The only genuinely relate able character in the lot, Bale conveys a great deal of sensitivity, making it one of his best performances to date. Steve Carell dug deep and came up with a persona that brings Baum to life, even if he does over act at times which I guess is how he really is in true-life form.
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It was also nice to see Marisa Tomei, Hamish Linklater, Billy Magnussen, Rafe Spall, Max Greenfield and talented others working at a solid supporting level.

With all the ‘truth’ films out there this year, “The Big Short” is one of the more important ones of this group and also one of the best. I wanted to laugh and cry at the same time as the film warns us in a way, who knows what will be the next basic human necessity to be denied by those few who hold power.

Grade: B+
@pegsatthemovies

Review Screening: Arclight Hollywood ~ Tuesday, December 8, 2015 ~ Courtesy of Paramount Pictures
In Select Theaters: Friday, December 11, 2015
NATIONWIDE RELEASE: Wednesday, December 23, 2015