Alison Brie Defends Promising Young Woman's Carey Mulligan After She Says Critic Deemed Her Not ‘Hot’ Enough

Alison Brie and Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman (2021)

Emerald Fennell’s Promising Young Woman has been snatching up headlines, and awards, left and right since first releasing in theaters last December. However, a review that was published long before the theatrical release has kicked up quite a stir. After Carey Mulligan, who plays the titular Cassie Thomas, said that the review in question suggested she wasn’t ‘hot’ enough for the role, there has been a fair bit of back and forth between Mulligan, the reviewer and the National Society of Film Critics. Alison Brie, who co-stars alongside Mulligan in Promising Young Woman, recently came out to defend the actress in regards to the whole situation.

In the interview Alison Brie said that she admired Carey Mulligan for calling out the review and supported the Oscar-nominated actress's stance. In her own words:

It was pretty egregious, I felt really proud of Carey for speaking up about it because that idea is terrifying. To criticize the critics who are going to continue to critique your work for the rest of your career is a daunting idea...There are so many things to comment on that feels like fair game, but appearance? It kind of blows my mind that in this day and age that people would think that's an okay thing to critique in an artistic space. It feels inappropriate.

Brie shared her thoughts on the controversy in an interview with Insider. Her comments come after a back and forth that all started when Carey Mulligan took issue with a review posted shortly after Promising Young Woman premiered at Sundance in January of 2020. Here’s how it all went down: In an interview with The New York Times, she called out the review in question:

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… I was like, 'Really?' For this film, you're going to write something that is so transparent? Now? In 2020?' I just couldn't believe it.

Mulligan’s response was in regard to a section of the review that suggested one could see Margot Robbie, who was a producer on Promising Young Woman, in the role of Cassie Thomas instead. Variety, who published the piece, then decided to pin an apology atop the review after Mulligan’s statement:

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.

Shortly after the editors note was published, Mulligan addressed the apology:

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.

However, Dennis Harvey, who penned the review, issued a statement of his own through The Guardian. In the critic’s response, he noted that Mulligan had misinterpreted what he wrote:

I did not say or even mean to imply Mulligan is ‘not hot enough’ for the role. I’m a 60-year-old gay man. I don’t actually go around dwelling on the comparative hotnesses of young actresses, let alone writing about that.

Not long after, the National Society of Film Critics, who Harvey is a member of, issued a statement of its own on Twitter, condemning the publisher for taking a stance and not supporting the critic:

We wish to register our alarm at Variety’s shabby treatment of our colleague. If Variety felt the language in Harvey’s review was insensitive and insinuating, it had the option of working with him to fix that in the editing process before it ran, rather than simply capitulating to it and undermining its own critic.

By now, you can probably gather that the whole situation has spiraled into a full-blown drama. So, it’s not surprising to see Alison Brie sharing her thoughts on the dispute. It looks like the film has become controversial both on screen and off by taking on such difficult subject matter in addition to the review controversy.

Alison Brie’s comments come after an impressive awards season for Promising Young Woman. The debut film from Emerald Fennell has earned a number of nominations, including four at this year’s Academy Awards. Carey Mulligan even earned a coveted Best Actress nomination for her performance.

While we won’t know if Mulligan’s performance will earn her an Oscar, I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw more comments on this situation as we get closer to this year’s ceremony, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled. Those who haven’t had a chance to check out Promising Young Woman yet can now check it out on Amazon Prime, where it’s available for streaming right now.

Braden Roberts

Into tracksuits by Paulie Walnuts, the Criterion Channel and Robert Eggers.