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‘Promising Young Woman’ | Anatomy of a Scene

11

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Hello, I am Emerald Fennell— the writer and director of Promising Young Woman. ”But why are you wearing all that make up? Do you mind me asking?” This scene comes in the first part of the movie where we see Cassandra— played by Carey Mulligan— in one of her nighttime activities. And she and Neil— played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse— have met at a club, or rather he has found her at a club and taken her home. ”I don‘t feel good. Could you get me a glass of water?” ”Yeah, sure.” And I think the thing about this scene is, is it‘s a kind of subversion of a lot of scenes perhaps we‘ve seen in romantic comedies— the nerdy nice guy who‘s sort of not very confident with women, is maybe using alcohol as a cover for a slightly more nefarious activities. ”Hey! Hey. There you are. You fell asleep.” And I think what is so beautifully played in this scene, really from both Carey and Chris is that you‘re seeing both— how they‘re communicating with each other and what their communicating to us, the audience. And so with Cassie— by this point we know she isn‘t drunk, even if he doesn‘t. And there are few moments, a lot of the conversations with Carey were, at what point do we want to see that? ”No. Don‘t go. Stay.” And equally when he comes back and thinks that she‘s passed out, that nice guy falls away. So there‘s this sense that he feels like he‘s putting in the work. So it‘s this kind of subversion or perversion of what we‘re kind of used to seeing when it comes to seduction in films and what people think is either appropriate or what they can get away with. ”Is that I need to go home.” It was very important to me in this film that we see, really we‘re seeing stuff that is just incredibly commonplace. ”I just thought you were—” ”Drunk?” ”Yeah.” ”Really drunk?” That it‘s not remotely unusual for not only for men to pick up girls who are very drunk and take that as a sort of green light, but also for them to talk almost exclusively in a monologue. ”High right now. I don‘t know what I‘m doing. I think you should go.” ”But a second ago, you were determined for me to stay. You were pretty insistent actually.” ”I‘m a nice guy.” ”Are you?” ”I thought we had a connection, I guess.” ”A connection? O.K. What do I do for a living? Sorry, maybe that one‘s too hard. How old am I? How long have I lived in the city? What are my hobbies? What‘s my name?” So you often find— when Cassie meets these men. She very deliberately does nothing to invite their advances at all. And so when you look at Chris‘s performance. What I said to him— as I said to everyone in this movie, really— was, this is your movie. You‘re the romantic hero. You‘re the nice guy. And this is you‘re falling in love moment. Because you feel such a connection to this girl because you like her hair, and she‘s wearing a leopard print skirt, and she‘s in your apartment. So this must be love. And it definitely isn‘t anything else. ”I‘m a nice guy.” ”You keep saying that, but you are not as rare as you think. You know how I know?” With Carey, who‘s just kind of supernaturally talented. It was about both being incredibly real and grounded in the moment and in her rage and all of that. But it‘s also being aware of what— once the turn happens, what Neil thinks is going to happen, and what we the audience think can happen.



www.nytimes.com 2021-02-06 04:19:21

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