At Sundance Film Festival, in the winter of 2020, director Emerald Fennell released her debut feature film Promising Young Woman to the public and immediately received high praise for this bold and unhinged slice of cinema. Both the storyline and the protagonist, Cassie (Carrie Mulligan), exude confidence, and Emerald Fennell’s razor-sharp writing cuts deep and leaves the audience wounded from this revenge thriller.
The film opens on a seemingly intoxicated Cassie (Carey Mulligan) alone in a bar, being watched and judged by a group of men nearby, one of them being Adam Brody. The words “she’s asking for it” and “women put themselves in danger” ring loud in the ears of viewers. These words are nothing new, but continue to cut deep every time.
Cassie was once a med-school student, with dreams of becoming a doctor, but now lives with her parents and works at a coffee shop, deeply guilted by an occurrence in college that forced her to drop out. At night, she becomes a femme-fatale, who pretends to be intoxicated and is inevitably preyed upon by self-proclaimed “nice guys.” When they lure her back to their apartment, she reveals that she has been sober the whole time and that they will pay their retribution. The storyline is messy and chaotic, but that is the point. The audience is meant to feel as angered and uncomfortable as Cassie, who navigates the widespread complicity surrounding rape and sexual assault.
The film features many stars in Hollywood, both up-and-coming and established. Including Bo Burnham, Laverne Cox, Jennifer Coolidge, Adam Brody, the Promising Young Woman cast does not disappoint.
Promising Young Woman blends genres so seamlessly and introduces Emerald Fennell as a promising young director and distinct voice for women everywhere.
Emerald Fennell has become a prominent fixture in Hollywood both in front of and behind the camera, but how did she get her start?
Emerald Fennell: a force to be reckoned with
Emerald Fennell is a force in Hollywood, wearing many hats as an actress, television writer, film producer, and director. Although Promising Young Woman gave her widespread recognition, it is not the first we’ve heard from this multi-talented Hollywood woman.
Emerald Fennell was born in 1985 to jewelry designer Theo Fennell and author Louise Fennell and grew up in an impressive social circle. Much like her mother Louise, Emerald Fennell always had a talent for writing and decided to write her first book, Shiverton Hall, in 2012, followed by two sequels shortly after.
The London-born actress began her acting career in college when attending Oxford University, but her first breakout role was as Nurse Patsy Mount in the beloved BBC period drama Call The Midwife. Since the release of this show, Emerald Fennell’s success has no bounds, and her co-stars had a lot to say about her three Oscar nominations for Promising Young Woman.
💓💓💓💓 so amazing, so proud, so deserved!!! 💓💓💓💓 https://t.co/mV5nSm4B9f
— Helen George (@helen_george) March 15, 2021
The absolute genius on the right has just been nominated for THREE OSCARS! (the woman on the left is still working in rep I think…)
Em, we’re all rooting for you, you brilliant, brilliant thing! So many congratulations xxx @emeraldfennell pic.twitter.com/e08mCz5e56
— Stephen McGann💙 (@StephenMcGann) March 15, 2021
In more recent days, Emerald Fennell starred as Camilla Parker-Bowles in season 4 of The Crown, and her performance is described as “incisive and critical to progressing the storylines of the drama.”
In 2019, Emerald Fennell took over for Phoebe Waller-Bridge as the head writer and executive producer for season two of Killing Eve. This landed her an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Writing in a Drama Series and although Emerald Fennell didn’t win, she showed up to the 2019 Emmys serving 1980’s socialite realness.
Going to the Emmys as a 80s socialite who recently murdered her second husband. pic.twitter.com/m6cwzJLnTK
— Emerald Fennell (@emeraldfennell) September 22, 2019
Along with writing for television, Emerald Fennell began writing for film, releasing her first short film, Careful How You Go, in 2018. This three-part dark comedy stars her close friend and fellow actress, Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
Following this short film was Promising Young Woman, Emerald Fennell’s first feature-length film, making her Oscar nominations all the more impressive. Emerald Fennell scored a total of three nominations including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay. Both Promising Young Woman and Nomadland are expected to sweep the Oscars this year, making this a big year for women in Hollywood movies. Emerald Fennel reacted with gratitude and excitement on Twitter:
So proud and grateful to every amazing person who worked on this film. Never going to stop crying.
— Emerald Fennell (@emeraldfennell) March 15, 2021
— Emerald Fennell (@emeraldfennell) March 15, 2021
In an interview with Variety’s Awards Circuit podcast, Promising Young Woman producers Margot Robbie and Josey McNamara say Emerald Fennell knew exactly what she wanted out of Promising Young Woman, even early on in the writing phase. “The great thing about Emerald as a filmmaker — from that very first moment she pitched us when she delivered the script, she knew the movie in her head instantly. She could talk about it so clearly.”
Emerald Fennell knew she wanted to create a genre-bending, smack-in-the-face type of film, and she did exactly that. Promising Young Woman transitions from thriller to romantic comedy to drama so swiftly, all while connecting to the main theme of the film.
How Promising Young Woman takes on the #MeToo movement
“There’s a need to politicize women’s work, to make it either a memoir or part of a movement. But the issues in this film have been going on forever and I’ve been thinking about writing it for a long time,” says Emerald Fennell. “So I wanted to see if it was possible to make a very specific type of genre movie. It just so happened that this project is about something that we’re all familiar with, which can seem innocuous and mundane, but when you examine it in another way is incredibly sinister.”
Emerald Fennell noticed how pop culture and mainstream media normalized sexual assault and wanted to address it head-on with a raw and unhinged revenge narrative.
What’s next for Emerald Fennell?
Promising Young Woman is a brilliant piece of work and it’s obvious that Emerald Fennell is just getting started.
In 2021, Emerald Fennell will tackle a new kind of vigilante, tasked to write the on-screen adaptation of the DC Comic Zatanna. Just last week, she spoke with Variety about the challenges of writing for such a different genre, saying “The world of superhero movies is incredibly exciting, but it’s also a new different challenge. … I’m such a genre fan. I’m a fan of witchcraft, magic, and comic books, and this is scary and intense.”
If Promising Young Woman and Zatanna are just the beginning of Emerald Fennell’s career, we’re excited to see what’s in store for this multi-talented Hollywood star.
What do others think of Promising Young Woman?
Before you watch the Promising Young Woman, check out what others have to say about the hit movie.
There’s a lot I still need to process from Promising Young Woman, but this was my main thought pic.twitter.com/EwKuOBqZAB
— Paige Noel Kiser (@paigenkiser) March 30, 2021
No, it was not a coincidence that almost every terrible man in the film is played by a beloved actor from a renowned television show https://t.co/FFLhRSCBqe
— New York Magazine (@NYMag) April 2, 2021
promising young woman is one of the best movies i’ve ever seen. all men should be legally required to watch it.
— corey (@crymnl_) March 30, 2021
#PromisingYoungWoman pissed me off and made me cry, and that’s why it was so good.
Men are afraid women will laugh at them.
Women are afraid men will kill them.
-Margaret Atwood pic.twitter.com/cafSgCePm4
— Boombox (@ViolentWolf28) March 30, 2021
Ok its been long enough. Here’s a thread on why you should watch “Promising Young Woman” I’ve seen so many terrible takes and unfounded concerns. Its a great thriller and a masterful think peice on gendered violence…. #PromisingYoungWoman pic.twitter.com/c2gVBq2az0
— I Love that Movie Podcast! (@ILTMpodcast) March 28, 2021
Emerald Fennell on her #Zatanna film: “The world of superhero movies is incredibly exciting, but it’s also a new different challenge. … I’m such a genre fan. I’m a fan of witchcraft, magic, and comic books, and this is scary and intense.” https://t.co/TI7U7xKasC pic.twitter.com/lA7jckMAfO
— Variety (@Variety) April 1, 2021
If you’re ready to head back to the big screen, take a look at our list of new movie releases out now in theaters.
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