Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman isn’t afraid to make viewers squirm. The film follows Cassandra ‘Cassie’ Thomas, played by Carey Mulligan, as a young woman who takes revenge on those who wronged her in the past. The debut feature from Fennell has generated some awards buzz since it released in December, with critics praising Carey Mulligan’s performance. Despite the initial acclaim, one review in particular has drawn the ire of the actress, insinuating that she wasn’t “hot'' enough for the role. Carey Mulligan has since responded to the review in question, first to air her grievances and subsequently to address the apology.
Here's what happened. One review, published over at Variety and written by Dennis Harvey, suggested that Margot Robbie, who was a producer on Promising Young Woman, may have been better suited for the role of Cassie. The review in question mentions "Mulligan, a fine actress, seems a bit of an odd choice as this admittedly many-layered apparent femme fatale" before bringing up Margot Robbie as the person the review could have better seen in the role. After it was published, Carey Mulligan shared her thoughts on the review, explaining how it felt to read those words.
I took issue with it. It felt like it was basically saying that I wasn’t hot enough to pull off this kind of ruse.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Variety sincerely apologizes to Carey Mulligan and regrets the insensitive language and insinuation in our review of Promising Young Woman that minimized her daring performance.
After the apology, Carey Mulligan readdressed the review and apology in an interview with Zendaya via the outlet's Actors on Actors series. In her response, she notes that constructive criticism is perfectly acceptable, but she feels taking aim directly at the appearance of an actor may have been taking things too far, especially in light of Promising Young Woman’s subject matter.
I feel it’s important that criticism is constructive. I think it’s important that we are looking at the right things when it comes to work, and we’re looking at the art, and we’re looking at the performance and the way that a film is made. And I don’t think that goes to the appearance of an actor or your personal preference for what an actor does or doesn’t look like, which it felt that that article did.
The publisher agrees with the actress, even after being called out. It looks like Promising Young Woman has caused a stir both on-screen and off, which makes sense considering the scathing subject matter the film tackles.
Promising Young Woman may be a watershed moment for Carey Mulligan’s career, as she’s generating buzz with awards nominations for her performance. The film could potentially make its way to the Oscars. Perhaps her performance in Promising Young Woman will add another Academy Award nomination in an already impressive career. It wouldn’t be much of a surprise considering the widespread praise the film is receiving, as well as its memorable and wild ending.
To note, Carey Mulligan isn’t the only rising star in Promising Young Woman, either. Emerald Fennell has impressed with her debut feature as well as Bo Burnham, who is fresh off a directorial debut of his own. Promising Young Woman is now in theaters and available on streaming. As for the rest of this year's movie slate, be sure to check out CinemaBlend’s 2021 Release Schedule.