‘Promising Young Woman’ Spoiler-Filled Review Addendum

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Promising Young Woman (CREDIT : Merie Weismiller Wallace/Focus Features)

I’ve already published a rave review of Promising Young Woman that you can check out here, and now that the release date has finally arrived, I’ve got some spoiler-rific thoughts to share. This is all to say: SPOILER ALERT! So you know, don’t read this unless you’ve seen it or if you’re fine with knowing all the details ahead of time.

ONE LAST WARNING! Don’t click ahead unless you really mean to…

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‘Promising Young Woman’ Fulfills Its Promise, and Then Some

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Promising Young Woman (CREDIT: Focus Features)

Starring: Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Laverne Cox, Clancy Brown, Jennifer Coolidge, Alison Brie, Connie Britton, Alfred Molina, Chris Lowell, Max Greenfield, Adam Brody, Sam Richardson, Molly Shannon, Christopher Mintz-Plasse

Director: Emerald Fennell

Running Time: 113 Minutes

Rating: R for Twisted Jokes, Drug Spikings, Discussions of Sexual Violence, and Some Up-Close Acute Violence

Release Date: December 25, 2020

Promising Young Woman hooked me immediately with its trailer, seemingly telling me everything I needed to know. When I finally saw the actual movie, it somehow still had plenty of opportunities to surprise me. It fits one of my favorite formulas for all-time great movies: simultaneously exactly what I was hoping for and so different from what I was expecting. Carey Mulligan is a knockout, in every way you can imagine. She plays med school dropout Cassie Thomas, a black widow who lures entitled men into this intoxicating trap she’s cooked up. She pretends to be blackout drunk at bars so that someone will not-so-gallantly bring her home to take advantage of her, at which point she drops the charade and spooks like them like a zombie popping out of the grave. She has her own history with assault, but she’s also an avenging angel taking on the entirety of rape culture.

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This Is a Movie Review: ‘Stronger’ Pulls No Punches in Dramatizing the Recovery of a Boston Marathon Bombing Victim

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CREDIT: Lionsgate/Roadside Attractions

This review was originally posted on News Cult in September 2017.

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Tatiana Maslany, Miranda Richardson, Clancy Brown

Director: David Gordon Green

Running Time: 119 Minutes

Rating: R for Bombing Gore and Boston Profanity

Release Date: September 22, 2017 (Limited)

Inspirational stories of recovery typically focus on people who are working towards some major goal that is waylaid by an accident or a tragedy. But what about the people who are just getting by in life? Many runners were injured at the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, but so were many spectators. Jeff Bauman, who lost his legs to the blast, is one of the latter. He was there to support his on-again/off-again girlfriend Erin Hurley, as she made her way to the finish line when fate destructively intervened. Without any sort of motivation to get back out on the pavement driving him, what would the road to recovery for Jeff be like? Stronger opens up the curtain on that frustrating process.

Bauman achieved fame in the wake of the bombing when a (graphic) photo of him being pulled away from the blast site became iconic and also when he gave a description of Tamerlan Tsarnaev to the FBI upon waking from a coma. This led to media appearances like throwing out the first pitch at a Red Sox game that served the purpose of solidifying the Boston Strong mythologizing of his hometown.

But the public image of everyday heroes obscures the painful struggle behind the scenes. As Jake Gyllenhaal’s portrayal makes clear, Bauman was not at all eager to play this role. His scraggly hair and deep pupils complement his physical and emotional breakdowns in the face of any pressure. It certainly does not help that his family – loud, crude, overbearing, fiercely protective – fits the Bostonian stereotype to a T. Director David Gordon Green makes sure to have an ever-present feeling of claustrophobia.

The cruel joke at the heart of this all is that Jeff has a reputation for never showing up to the important moments in his life. Cheering his girlfriend on at the race is totally out of character for him. It is the major divisive factor causing the strife in their relationship. It drives the engine of his feelings of inferiority that prevent him from fully committing to his recovery. As Erin, Tatiana Maslany bears the brunt of the agony of these shortcomings, registering the pain all over her face. Even when Jeff ultimately turns a positive corner, the damage is done, and the scars are lasting.

As a title, Stronger is more wish than fact. The movie concludes with Jeff trying to do his best, but the major lesson to be gleaned from his story is that not everyone can summon the willpower to stand defiantly against the evils of the world as easily as catchy slogans and media mythmaking may want us to.

Stronger is Recommended If You Like: Jake Gyllenhaal in all his versatility, Million Dollar Baby, Sticking with people through their lowest points

Grade: 3 out of 5 Gallows Jokes