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Emerald Fennell
Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Alison Brie
Writing Credits:
Emerald Fennell

Traumatized by a tragic event in her past, a young woman seeks out vengeance against those who crossed her path.

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1
English DTS 5.1
English Dolby 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 113 min.
Price: $27.98
Release Date: 8/29/2023

• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Emerald Fennell
• “A Promising Vision” Featurette
• “Two-Sided Transformation” Featurette
• “Balancing Act” Featurette
• Blu-ray Copy


-LG OLED65C6P 65-Inch 4K Ultra HD Smart OLED TV
-Marantz SR7010 9.2 Channel Full 4K Ultra HD AV Surround Receiver
-Sony UBP-X700 4K Ultra HD Dolby Vision Blu-ray Player
-Chane A2.4 Speakers
-SVS SB12-NSD 12" 400-watt Sealed Box Subwoofer


Promising Young Woman [4K UHD] (2020)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 18, 2023)

When one thinks about movies that earn Christmas releases, one assumes one will find warm family fare. One doesn’t think of efforts like 2020’s Promising Young Woman, but as a capper to the weirdest year on memory, Hollywood figured December 25 made total sense as the opening date for a dark character thriller.

Now 30, Cassie Thomas (Carey Mulligan) dropped out of medical school years ago. She lives with her parents (Clancy Brown and Jennifer Coolidge) while she works at a coffee shop.

Cassie enjoys a secret side, though, as she visits bars and pretends to be drunk. She lures in “nice guys” who offer to help her but instead attempt to have their way with her. During these trysts, Cassie eventually reveals her game and teaches these men a lesson.

Why does Cassie exact this form of feminist revenge? Mainly because her lifelong BFF Nina suffered a horrible fate during their shared time at med school, and Cassie seeks spiritual retribution for these actions.

Cassie attempts final payback for Nina’s treatment but encounters a complication when charming Ryan Cooper (Bo Burnham) – a former classmate – romances her. Cassie finds herself confronted with a desire to continue her vengeful path versus the potential to live a more normal personal life.

As always, I prefer to avoid spoilers, so I won’t offer any specifics about how this film goes. Suffice it to say that Woman follows a tough to anticipate path, and also that one should not anticipate a happy ending.

The latter area should seem patently obvious no more than 10 minutes into Woman. Yes, when Cassie develops a romance with Ryan, one can foresee a version of the story that goes all Happily Ever After. However, the movie’s opening makes it abundantly clear that writer/director Emerald Fennell won’t take that “easy out”.

And let’s be clear: given the movie’s tone from the outset, any plot path that leads Cassie to a blissful, romantic finale would seem like a complete copout. Woman could opt for a less dark ending than what we find, but anything less than a gut punch would seem phony.

Not that one should expect realism from Woman, as it presents something of an arch approach to the subject. Fennell presents some of the material in a nearly camp manner, and a tone of black comedy crops up throughout the movie.

However, Fennell leavens the darkly amusing winks with real trauma – though not the graphic brutality one might expect. Any viewers who anticipate a violent, bloody revenge thriller will leave Woman disappointed, as it leaves most of that material to the imagination.

Indeed, the film doesn’t even really reveal what Cassie does to the “nice guys” who try to take advantage of her. We get a couple of those episodes but not much real clarity about their resolution.

That’s fine with me, as I like the fact Cassie’s punitive measures remain implied rather than shown. Woman packs enough of a punch that it doesn’t need to resort to cheap titillation to impact the viewer.

I suspect some will bring a kneejerk POV to Woman and view it as nothing more than man-hating feminist propaganda, and the film certainly does make men look bad. However, it avoids simplistic moralizing and implicates women as part of the problem as well, mainly due to the events that sent Cassie and Nina from med school.

Yes, males come across worse in Woman than females do, but no one escapes unscathed. The film takes a strong look at how society as a whole fails women and lets no one off the hook.

Even our lead doesn’t get to take an easy path, as Woman refuses to paint Cassie in a simplistic light. In other hands, Cassie would become a pure, admirable avenging angel, but here, we find nothing of the sort.

As written by Fennell, Cassie becomes a massively troubled character, one stuck in a form of arrested development. Like Batman, she acts against “villains” due to her desire for revenge, but also like the Dark Knight, she never seems to take much satisfaction from her pursuit of justice.

In other words, Cassie provides a deeply disturbed character, one who clearly thinks her acts of retribution will bring her the clarity she craves, but also one who seems too lost to ever emerge from her fog. The film allows her multiple layers and doesn’t just turn her into a one-dimensional lead.

At the risk of too many Batman references, Mulligan’s Cassie feels like an echo of Michelle Pfeiffer’s Selena Kyle/Catwoman from 1992’s Batman Returns. For one, Mulligan looks not unlike Pfeiffer, and also her stab at an American accent makes her sound a bit like Pfeiffer as well.

Most of the similarities come from the way both actors took on characters with deep psychological damage and a thirst for revenge. Of course, Pfeiffer played her part in a cartoonier way than Mulligan does hers, though not as much as one might think, given the arch, nearly satirical tone of Woman at times.

Whether or not Mulligan based any part of her work on Pfeiffer’s, she creates an indelible character who becomes the film’s wounded but still beating heart. Mulligan refuses to milk the role’s inherently tragic nature and turns Cassie into a sympathetic part with whom we find it tough to bond because of her casual sense of self-sabotage. It’s a career-defining performance.

As Fennell’s first feature, Woman may turn into a career-launching endeavor for the actor turned filmmaker. An audacious, self-assured and powerful affair, Woman makes me eager to see what Fennell does next.

The Disc Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

Promising Young Woman appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.39:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. A film finished at 2K, this presentation looked good but didn’t live up to the highs of 4K.

Sharpness largely satisfied. Darker interiors could be a little indistinct, but the majority of the flick displayed positive definition. This meant we usually got a tight, accurate presentation.

I saw no issues with jaggies or shimmering, and edge haloes failed to appear. Print flaws also didn’t pop up, so the movie stayed clean and clear.

In terms of colors, Woman tended toward a somewhat amber feel, with some teal, purple and red tossed in as well. This worked fine within the film’s design parameters.

Blacks seemed dark and tight, while shadows offered mostly nice clarity and smoothness, outside of a few slightly dense interiors. Mostly everything satisfied in this appealing transfer.

Though never great, the movie’s DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundfield opened things up to a moderate degree. Music showed nice stereo presence, and the soundscape broadened when appropriate.

This mostly meant street scenes or those in various exterior locations, as the track featured decent use of the side and rear channels to recreate the various places. Nightclubs also added immersiveness. This wasn’t a super-involving soundscape, but it seemed fine for the story.

Audio quality was good. Speech appeared natural, and the lines never demonstrated intelligibility problems.

Music was dynamic and lively, as the score showed nice range and delineation. Effects were also accurate, with nice clarity. The breadth of the soundfield wasn’t special enough to rate anything above a “B-”, but I thought the track suited the film.

How did the 4K UHD compare to the Blu-ray version? Visuals showed a moderate boost typical for the format, with HDR as the most important factor. The 4K didn’t dazzle but it gave the image a decent step up in quality.

Although the 4K promises an Atmos soundtrack, someone goofed along the way. If you click the Atmos mix on the disc’s menu, you’ll wind up with plain ol lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 instead.

The disc came with a more than adequate DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix, a mild step down from the Blu-ray’s DTS-HD MA 7.1. I would suspect Universal will correct this error at some point and reissue the 4K with the intended Atmos track, but for now, we only get 5.1, and that made the 4K’s audio less ambiitious than the Blu-ray’s.

A few extras appear here, and we begin with an audio commentary from writer/director Emerald Fennell. She discusses story/characters, cast and performances, themes, sets and locations, costumes and production design, music, and related domains.

For the most part, Fennell makes this a fairly informative chat. At times, she delves into too much praise, but she brings enough useful insights to make this piece worth a listen.

Three featurettes follow, and A Promising Vision runs four minutes, three seconds and brings notes from Fennell, producer Josey McNamara, and actors Carey Mulligan, Laverne Cox, Alison Brie and Bo Burnham.

“Vision” examines story and themes as well as Fennell’s impact on the production. A few insights result but it mostly feels promotional.

Two-Sided Transformation lasts three minutes, 16 seconds and offers remarks from Mulligan, Fennell, Burnham, Brie and costume designer Nancy Steiner. We hear about the lead character and Mulligan’s performance in this passable overview.

Finally, Balancing Act fills three minutes, 50 seconds with info from Fennell, Brie, Burnham, Mulligan, Cox, and actors Jennifer Coolidge, Christopher Lowell, Max Greenfield, Adam Brody, Connie Britton, Clancy Brown and Molly Shannon.

They discuss the film’s tone as well as cast/performances. Expect another decent but fairly superficial piece.

The package also comes with a Blu-ray copy of Woman, one that includes the same extras as the 4K. Note that all the supplements subtitles listed under the disc’s specs apply solely to the Blu-ray, as the 4K omits any text for its bonus materials.

Some will attempt to dismiss Promising Young Woman as nothing more than a “Me Too”-era feminist fantasy, but those attitudes ignore the film’s depth. Aided by a stunning lead performance from Carey Mulligan, the film leaves no stone unturned in the way it implicates society, and it ends up as a powerful, dark journey.

The 4K UHD brings good picture as well as a few bonus materials and audio that works fine but due to a mistake doesn’t bring the promised Atmos mix. This might be 2020’s best movie but I can’t regard the 4K as an obvious upgrade over the Blu-ray, especially because audio becomes a downgrade unless/until Universal corrects their error.

To rate this film, visit the prior review of PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN

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