Meewella | Critic

According to P

Tag: Bo Burnham

QuickView: Promising Young Woman (2020)

“Look how easy that was. I guess you just had to think about it in the right way.”


A bold and unpredictable female revenge thriller, stripped of the male gaze that typifies the genre, Promising Young Woman is an arresting directorial debut from Emerald Fennell. Carey Mulligan’s performance is enthralling, turning on a dime between vulnerable and predatory, but revealing greater emotional depth through her relationships with her parents, her boss and a potential new love interest. The juxtaposition of these softer scenes provides tonal shifts that are uncomfortable without feeling exploitative, since they are about the character’s different headspaces rather than simply a visual cut between sex and violence (indeed, for all the darkness of its subject matter, there is little of either on screen). Cassandra’s strength is her dauntlessness rather than aggression, leading to some wonderfully feminist wish-fulfilment sequences like silently staring down a group of catcalling builders until their bravado falters. The tonal disconnect is heightened through a soundtrack of female-fronted pop, culminating in an instrumental strings cover of Britney Spear’s Toxic that drips with menace. It is the combination of these aspects that makes Promising Young Woman feel so fresh in cinema, a continuation of television experiments like Killing Eve (on which Fennell was a writer). Using this remarkable concoction to make sharp points about rape culture, the prioritisation of men’s reputations, guilt, complicity and historic transgressions, makes this an important — as well as impressive — achievement.


QuickView: Eighth Grade (2018)

Eighth Grade poster

“But it’s like, being yourself is, like, not changing yourself to impress someone else.”


Bo Burnham’s directorial debut focuses his attuned voice on an unremarkable young girl clumsily navigating the final week of eighth grade (Year 9 in the UK), but its success is capturing the disconnect between adults and the children with whom they seek to communicate. Elsie Fisher’s astounding portrayal of Kayla’s shy awkwardness is what endears us to the quiet, thoughtful character. Although Kayla is permanently attached to her phone, technology hasn’t really changed the underlying angst as these new teenagers deal with crafting an identity away from their parents and seeking out platonic and romantic relationships. The female perspective invites comparisons with The Edge of Seventeen, but the smaller scope of its narrow timeframe makes Eighth Grade a slice of life rather than a coming-of-age story. Burnham is less interested in nostalgia than capturing reality. The most lasting impression came from Kayla’s YouTube vlogs that pepper the film as a form of narration, in which she earnestly offers the advice that she sorely needs herself.


"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

(CC) BY-NC 2003-2023 Priyan Meewella

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