The Morning After: Dec. 7, 2020

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

Promising Young Woman


Promising Young Woman could be subtitled “A Guide to Toxic Masculinity” and should most definitely be used as a litmus test for critics. That’s not because everyone will see it as a good movie, there will undoubtedly be some who don’t, but certain critics, most likely straight white male critics, may be tempted to defend some of the men in the film. The film more than clearly spells out why that should not stand.

The film follows Carey Mulligan’s Cassie as she finds a way to cope with her best friend’s rape while they were medical school by conducting a social experiment. Pretending to be wasted, Cassie is taken home countless times by men who take advantage of her inebriated state before revealing the ruse and admonishing them for their horrendous actions. Giving up a promising career, Cassie feels the need to punish and repudiate men who take advantage of women to hopefully raise awareness with those men that their actions are far from the conscientious ones they pretend to support.

Mulligan is fierce in determination while letting the audience in on her vulnerability as she navigates supportive friends, a potential romantic entanglement, and an increasingly depressed faith in men who claim to be looking out for the best interests of women, but who ultimately look out only for their needs. Emerald Fennell’s directorial style is fluid, precise, and moving. She lingers on moments that become uncomfortable for the audience, hoping they’ll learn something about themselves and the men around them. Were this a direct indictment of now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanagh’s collegiate offenses, I wouldn’t be surprised. However, the broader implication, one going well beyond a single high profile case of sexual assault, is of the notion that men succumb to their basest instincts. That societal crutch of defending their actions while of a younger age, belies a notion that regardless of how promising their careers may be, the same promising young women they assault and whose psyches they destroy aren’t given the same benefit of the doubt.

Trolls: World Tour


For the pleasant and warm surprise that the first film was, Trolls: World Tour is almost the opposite, a sometimes joyless, cold disappointment. The cast of the first film (Anna Kendrick, Justin Timberlake, and James Corden) return with some notable guest voices including Kelly Clarkson, George Clinton, Mary J. Blige, and Sam Rockwell with Crazy Ex-Girlfriend star Rachel Bloom as primary antagonist, Barb, the queen of the rock N roll trolls who has decided to collect the strings of the six main branches of music so that she can control them and make rock the only music around.

Kendrick’s Poppy, now queen of the pop music trolls, takes upon herself to try and befriend Barb or otherwise stop her from collecting the other strings, country, techno, funk, and classical. Apart from having a disappointingly weak knowledge of musical history, the film takes for granted that these six types of music are the pre-eminent ones, ignoring rap, rolling metal into rock, barely acknowledging jazz or r&b, and avoiding the acknowledgement of spiritual and gospel music entirely. Meanwhile, K-Pop (which is just pop/dance music), smooth jazz, reggaeton, and yodeling are all treated as punchlines rather than legitimate musical outlets.

The film tries very hard to get away from feeling mean-spirited, but the actions of the lead characters seem overly focused on protecting their own personal feelings than legitimately saving the universe. By the time Corden’s overly trusting troll character departs, the audience almost feels like they should join him and leave the rest of the film to its own devices. The energetic and rousing musical cues of the original film are replaced by less exciting song elements in this film. Sure, the audience gets more of a broad overview of other musical styles, but the end result is something less than fun or entertaining. It’s a rigorous attempt to revisit what made the first film special while forgetting entirely how to go about doing that. Even the film’s major Timberlake contribution (“The Other Side”) pales in comparison to his invigorating “Can’t Stop the Feeling” from the first film. It ultimately becomes emblematic of the successes and failures of this follow up feature.

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