The Big Picture
- The ending of Promising Young Woman is satisfying and cathartic, with Cassie seeking revenge on her friend’s rapist and successfully bringing him to justice.
- The film’s original ending, where Cassie survives and burns down the house with the rapist and his friends, was considered too depressing and unfulfilling.
- Cassie’s meticulous planning and the timing of her text messages create a more fulfilling ending, leaving viewers questioning her true intentions and exposing the reality of revenge.
Promising Young Woman became a big hit during the pandemic as this dark comedy offered a different take on the rape-revenge genre. Written and directed by Emerald Fennell (The Crown), the film follows 30-year-old medical school dropout, Cassie (Carey Mulligan), who seeks revenge against those she holds accountable for her dead best friend’s assault. She lives at home with her parents and works as a barista while she leads a secret life at night where she pretends to be intoxicated at bars to hold the men who attempt to take advantage of her accountable for their actions. While it is not entirely explained, Nina is sexually assaulted at a party and drops out of the same medical school as Cassie after the school fails to hold the culprit responsible. The film garnered instant rave reviews from audiences and critics, who have praised this film for its bright bubblegum pop look that brilliantly redefines this revenge thriller that should make viewers uncomfortable.
Despite Saltburn getting shut out from the Oscars this year, Emerald Fennell has proven herself to have a knack for writing films with both dark and fascinating subjects that are accompanied by jaw-dropping endings that leave viewers wanting to go back and rewatch them. The ending to Promising Young Woman does just that, as it is exhilarating and cathartic for the dark note it ends on. Many revenge thrillers, like John Wick, changed the game in this genre with the satisfying conclusion that audiences seek. Fennell elevates the genre further with this ending with the use of bright colors that tie in well with the dark subject, as it represents the transformation of the Cassie we see at the end of the film. The film accumulated five Oscar nominations in 2021, rightfully winning Best Original Screenplay for Fennell, who wrote an unforgettable ending to this film. However, there was an ending that Fennell had in mind that would have changed the tone of the film and not have the same effect on the viewer as the original did.
Promising Young Woman
Haunted by a traumatic event in her past, a young woman sets out for revenge against those who cross her path.
- Release Date
- December 13, 2020
- Emerald Fennell
- Emerald Fennell
- Payback never looked so promising.
What Happens at the End of ‘Promising Young Woman’?
For those who haven’t watched the ending to Promising Young Woman, it has been discussed, analyzed, and fawned over because of how satisfying it was. The film ends after Cassie watches the footage of Nina’s rape and discovers that her boyfriend, Ryan, (Bo Burnham), who she knew from medical school, witnessed the assault without ever telling her. She then makes it her mission to go after Nina’s rapist, Al Monroe (Christopher Lowell), at his bachelor party at a cabin in the woods, where she blackmails Ryan into telling her of the location. She disguises herself as a stripper, dressed in a colorful wig and a nurse’s outfit. She secretly drugs the attendees, including his best friend, Joe (Max Greenfield), and takes Al to a bedroom. There she handcuffs him to the bed and reveals her identity to him while she expresses her motive to carve out Nina’s name on his body with a medical knife. As Cassie attempts her plan, Al breaks from one of the handcuffs and smothers her to death with a pillow. The following morning, Joe helps him burn Cassie’s body near the woods.
At the end of the movie, the police begin to investigate Cassie’s disappearance and question Ryan about her whereabouts. He falsely paints her as “unstable” and avoids telling them about the bachelor party. Just as it seems that Al and Joe are going to get away with it, Al’s former lawyer, Jordan (Alfred Molina) — who has expressed his regret at representing Al in the rape case — is sent evidence in case Cassie does not return from the bachelor party. At Al’s wedding, Ryan receives taunting pre-scheduled texts from Cassie right when the police storm in. With the discovery of her body and the evidence Jordan sent in, Al is arrested during the wedding and Cassie’s final moment is presented with a winky emoticon to end this film on a cleverly satisfying note. The ending to Promising Young Woman continues to be raved about by those who find the conclusion to accurately portray the reality of the aftermath of revenge. Cassie knew the risk of going to this bachelor party and was meticulous in her plan to ensure that justice would be brought to those responsible for her death and best friend’s assault. As mentioned before, the use of cool and warm colors at the end represents the descent in Cassie’s character and the person she’s turned into.
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‘Promising Young Woman’s Alternate Ending Shows An Unfulfilling Catharsis
Promising Young Woman realistically depicts what life can be like for someone who goes out for revenge. Unfulfilling. In an interview with Vulture back in 2021, Emerald Fennell revealed that she had an alternate ending in mind in which Cassie lives. She burns the house down with Al and his friends and walks away. Fennell opted out of that ending, saying, “I just didn’t understand how that would happen without it being incredibly depressing and unfulfilling in a different way. Because for her too, as much as us, what happens after the catharsis? What happens after you’ve done that stuff? Your life’s still ruined.” An ending where Al and the rest of his bachelor party die, and she survives, does not result in the happy life one might think. Because what happens to Cassie afterward? Do we assume that she’ll carry on living with her parents or start a new happy life as one might think? “There’s no happy ending in any revenge.”
Fennell further praises how meticulous Cassie is as she sets up the text messages to be delivered much later in the event if she were to survive the night of the bachelor party. Her design in her final act is much more fulfilling as her text is sent simultaneously with Al’s arrest at his wedding. It’s an ending that leaves us questioning what Cassie’s true intentions were from the beginning. Did she plan in case of her death and know that the end to this catharsis was never going to end well for her? Fennell dives into this and tells Variety that the alternate ending in which Cassie lives is not realistic. “I realized that there is no way of honestly showing that. Because it’s not true, and it was important to me to play out as realistically as I could, what this would look like.” Unlike some alternate endings, Promising Young Woman‘s original ending has a stronger impact on its audience with Cassie’s final act in bringing justice to the bad guys who mask themselves as the “good guys”.
Promising Young Woman is available to stream on Prime Video in the U.S.
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