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Promising Young Woman (Blu-ray Review)

Now nominated for many prestigious Academy Awards (including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Editing), Promising Young Woman has arrived on Blu-ray. The film has crafted lots of worthwhile praise as well as conversation in this strongly voiced film. This Blu-ray release has brought on the unfortunate conversation about crappy cover art, which I cannot argue with. The film garnered some really cool art and they went with a pretty garbage, generic image to represent this powerful film. Regardless, its getting a commentary and a couple quick featurettes to expand the experience on physical media. It arrived on March 16th and you can order it using the paid Amazon Associates link following the review.

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Film

Everyone said Cassie (Carey Mulligan) was a promising young woman…until a mysterious event abruptly derailed her future. But nothing in Cassie’s Life is what it appears to be: she’s wickedly smart, tantalizingly cunning, and she’s living a secret double life by night. Now, an unexpected encounter is about to give Cassie a chance to right the wrongs of the past in this thrilling and wildly entertaining story.

Emerald Fennell has now made a hell of a splash as a creator in both film and television in just a short time the past couple of years. Promising Young Woman has personally landed her 3 well deserved Oscar nominations. The film is a complete stroke of brilliance and quite possibly one of the best feature film debuts we’ve ever seen. The film reflects and speaks volumes in amplifying our current climate of confronting the demand for real justice, accountability and equality in our social and professional structures. A film that can both empower a sect of viewers and inspire others to own up to their pasts or become better people.

Promising Young Woman feels like it goes after actual living breathing problematic men that women actually face off against rather than your typical “Yells and hits” here ones you see in movies. She makes them well rounded, she makes them real. The “nice/goofy” guy is who we mostly see in this film. These toxic males that make up the modern atmosphere of your creative types, gamers, “nerds” and non-sports types who are just as awful (If not worse) than the angry, misogynistic handsome rich asshole. Her film hits me in the fact that I’ve met, known, gone to school with, worked with, seen guys like this in action. I even question my memory of my own past self’s behavior and associations as I consume Promising Young Woman and wonder if I ever said stupid things or should’ve stepped up better when I was at a nightclub and maybe saw an acquaintance or someone acting a certain way. What passes some by lingers with others for eternity. Mindfulness is not always a strength of the male youth.

Beyond themes and message through her screenplay, Fennell has a great technical prowess on display throughout the film. She really knows how to place a camera and convey feelings, ideas and reflection with the frame. On a visual level the film is aces. From the display of power and advantage in her own when Alison Brie visits to the opening show plenty of slow motion on the crotches and dancing of generically nicely dressed males on a club dance floor, she really pushes it. Her use of color is also terrific. One of my favorite moments happens when Carey Mulligan is in the coffee shop in front of a sort of square piece of art and Bo Burnham leads in to kiss. Its the perfect visualization of her allowing him into her space, her life and sharing something with another person. Its not on the nose, its not blunt, its just worked in with her symphony in such a natural way.

Quite frankly, one of the best things film as a medium can do is spark/push/continue conversation. Moving needles, inspiring people to do better, push forward, change and make some progress in the world. And Promising Young Woman, while being an outstanding thriller on its surface, digs so much deeper and can’t go without having a conversation about what’s wrong with males, consent and equal treatment by our justice system. If it all it has to say goes over your head or right by you, then you may be part of the problem. One thing I’ve quite enjoyed in the wake of Promising Young Woman have been the conversations and written essays from woman regarding the film, sharing their own horrific experiences and finding some solace in the film. Its a film that gets very personal to many, but speaks to all. Its a shame I didn’t get to it after my Best of 2020 list had posted, but I’m with the crowd touting it as one of last year’s very best.

Video

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail:

Depth:  Spacing is rather solid, with smooth fluid characters and objects weaving in and out of the frame. Pushback is quite decent and scale really shows a good handle. Especially in the scenes of her parking at her parents’ home and seeing it so far in the distance. Movements are fluid, smooth and have no issues with motion distortions, blur or jitter.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and pretty respectable all throughout. Its got a sort of digital feel to it, in that it can only hit a certain peak with the Blu-ray format limitations. All in all, though, the darkness, shadow and complimentary touches work quite well and the image suffers no information loss. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction:  Color has pretty terrific saturation and a nice, beautiful, almost pastel-like at times palette to lean on. Colors hold to fine tuned bold appearance without any danger of bleeding. Many of the painted walls and upholstery have a nice little pop to them. It would have been nice to have a 4K presentation to see some of this really bursts, but perhaps with some Oscars success, we could see an upgrade down the line.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and consistent from start to finish of the film, give or take a lighting filter for club set scenes. Facial features and texture come across quite clear in any given frame distance. Moles, freckles, make-up, lip texture, wrinkles, stubble are all quite easily discernible.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio

Audio Format(s): English 7.1 DTS-HD MA, English Descriptive Audio, French 5.1 DTS, Spanish 7.1 DTS-HD HR

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish

Dynamics: I’d have thought this one my get a standard 5.1 mix, but to my delight we are treated with 7.1 And it whirls and winds quite terrifically through your system. The mix really balances well, with strong vocals and able to bring the music to heightened moments and carry a scene. Its quite effective and really gives an engaging experience whether the film is in a louder moment or in the more quiet, intense and intimate sequences.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: Most of the subwoofer’s big moments come with dropping the bass in the club music, but it also has some nice touches in making some extra bump to more naturalistic sounds going on in the film.

Surround Sound Presentation: This is a pretty atmospheric trip around the speakers as they all contribute quite well to bringing any interior or exterior to life. Where we really see it shine is in the presentation of some of the songs and how they haunt around and get playful with the channels.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp and always present and center no matter how loud the score or club music gets cranked up in the mix.

Extras

Promising Young Woman comes with a redeemable digital code for the film.

Audio Commentary

  • with Writer/Director Emerald Fennell

A Promising Vision (HD, 4:03) – This one brushes over the themes of the film and how they’re distributed and focuses on some of the characters.

Two-Sided Transformation (HD, 3:16) – A quick look at Carey Mulligan’s performance and her character of Cassie Thomas.

Balancing Act (HD, 3:50) – This piece looks at finding the right line for the tone of the film. What should come across as funny and what should be seen as disturbing.

Summary

Even prior to the vindicated Oscar nomination glory, Promising Young Woman easily argued to be the best film of 2020 and has set a high bar for the fresh new decade of films to come. It comes with some all to brief bonus feature to accompany a director commentary. The image and audio quality are terrific. For now, this is probably the best we’ll get for the film for a few years. Hopefully a pretty substantial upgrade could come down the road with a 4K UHD presentation or more expansive extras.

This is a paid Amazon Associates link

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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