Whenever I told people I was working on this list, a typical response was, “What even came out this year?”
It’s hauntingly real, and that’s a problem.
The myth about nice guys is wrong: it’s the “loose girls like that” who inevitably finish last. Promising Young Woman slips so effortlessly from dark comedy into horror that its unsettling effect is ever more striking by how sugarcoated with charm lead Cassie (Carey Mulligan) is. That’s Cassie’s superpower, to disrupt our expectations – and prove that “nice guys” really don’t exist.
Writer-director Emerald Fennell, who also produced the film with Margot Robbie’s LuckyChap Entertainment, marks her impressive directorial debut with Promising. The film captivated critics at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival before its Christmas Day release. Costarring Bo Burnham, Alison Brie, and Laverne Cox – plus a slew of famously nice guy actors like Adam Brody, Max Greenfield, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse – Promising proves we really can’t judge someone by their so-called sloppy (and presumed slutty) exterior.
Thirty-year-old med school dropout Cassie works at a coffee shop by day and trolls for unassuming men by night. Every weekend, she pretends to be too drunk to stand at a local bar, only to stumble into the arms of a “well-meaning” gentleman who graciously offers to take her back to her house…oh wait, nevermined, it’s easier just to go to his.
Through different outfits, hairstyles, and makeup tricks, patron saint of vengenance Cassie snags a variety of self-important men who find that discussing the hardships of masculinity while quoting David Foster Wallace’s “Consider the Lobster” an aphrodisiac. A Cindy Sherman for the nightclub scene, Cassie projects what her targets want to see, all before holding up a mirror to reflect their attempts at assault.
Promising‘s rape culture revenge story is elevated by stunning cinematography, Mulligan’s intoxicatingly raw performance, and snappy soundtrack that packs a punch akin to Birds of Prey’s flashy bubblegum-popping good time. That is, until Cassie finds herself entangled with a past acquaintance, and is forced to come to terms with why she gave up her “promising” career years prior.
Cassie’s raw determination against patriarchal assumptions blazes more forcefully than token Christmas Day blockbuster Wonder Woman’s golden lasso ever could. Need we look any further than Cassie for our 2020 feminist icon?
Promising leaves us asking whose fault it is that promising young women’s careers – and lives – are shattered by date rape. But the real question is, whose fault are we comfortable admitting? From complicit taxi drivers to bartenders, Promising spotlights a culture that can’t question what it doesn’t want to see. Thankfully, this film makes it hard to look away.
“Promising Young Woman” is in theaters December 25.
“All My Life” centers on real-life couple, Jenn Carter and Solomon Chau, who wed under unthinkable circumstances. Stars Jessica Rothe and Harry Shum Jr. open up about honoring Chau’s legacy, and how the film has changed them for the better.
Costarring Chrissie Fit, Jay Pharaoh, Josh Brener, and Marielle Scott as the couple’s supportive friend group, All My Life is an all-too relatable story of hope, love, and loss. As Jenn Carter (Jessica Rothe) struggles with her fiancé Solomon Chau’s (Harry Shum Jr.) liver cancer diagnosis, their loved ones come together to raise over $52,000 for the couple to have the wedding of their dreams.
Jenn and Sol’s passion for one another shines brightly onscreen, thanks to Rothe and Shum Jr.’s heartfelt chemistry. “I was just so taken with the amazing love story that was portrayed, but also with what a powerful, strong, resilient, brave human Jenn Carter is and was during this time in her life, and the positivity that she and Sol tackled this period of adversity with,” Rothe explained. “It was just so inspiring to see their love and their connection because they truly were soulmates and lifelong friends. They were meant to be together, even though their time was cut short.”
A set visit from the real-life Jenn Carter also helped them both learn more about their off-screen inspirations.
“I think actually the biggest gift Jenn gave me…was she really encouraged me to make the character my own and to not feel beholden to doing some kind of impersonation or mimicking her,” Rothe continued. “As a result, I was able to show up on set every day and be incredibly present with Harry [Shum Jr.] and find our own beautiful version of this love story in all of its simplicity and complexity.”
Rothe and Shum Jr. worked together to honor both Jenn and Solomon’s ups and downs as a couple, while still putting their famed romance into perspective onscreen. “It was important for us, Jess and I, to sit there and work it through to figure out what we could bring to the table as individuals, as performers, while still honoring their story and their love that so many people even before this movie was made were affected by on a global scale,” Shum Jr. opened up. “Just seeing their wedding video and how people contributed selflessly to give them that special moment.”
As for what audiences might take away from All My Life this 2020 holiday season?
“It’s been a rough year in different ways for a lot of people,” Shum Jr. concluded. “I think [the film is] giving someone a different perspective of how this couple dealt with something like this, and I think that’s what’s needed right now: just to see some hope. For me, it was incredibly inspiring. I am a changed person just being a part of this film.”
“All My Life” is in theaters December 4, and available on demand December 23.
It truly is a Holly Dolly Christmas!
Otoja Abit is a prolific writer, director, and actor who has finished filming for his new movie, ‘A New York Christmas Wedding’. We caught up with him to discuss his film and what inspired him to make it.
Back in 1978, nine members of a black liberation revolutionary group in Philadelphia known as MOVE was raided by police, resulting in the death of a police officer.
Shawn Mendes Talks All New Netflix Documentary ‘Shawn Mendes: In Wonder’ At Virtual Press Conference
Yesterday, “Séniorita” singer and world-renowned artist Shawn Mendes participated in an exclusive Q&A to discuss his all-new Netflix Documentary, Shawn Mendes: In Wonder.
Paul Starkman is an acclaimed director who has worked on several Emmy-nominated shows like “Top Chef” and “Project Runway”. We caught up with him to discuss the themes of his new movie, Wheels.
Keith Bearden is a prolific writer and director coming off of his new coming-of-age comedy, Antarctica. We caught up with him to talk about the movie and what inspired him to write it.