Carey Mulligan just had a starring role in a movie that’s receiving a ton of critical acclaim. But unfortunately, not all critics seemed to be viewing the film through a lens of determining whether it was a solid movie or not. Instead, at least one review may have focused a little too much on the looks of the lead actress. And that caused something of a stir in the industry. But Mulligan has clapped back against the review and forced the publication to respond. Variety is now walking back some parts of the review they put up for Promising Young Woman.
The review in question was penned by Variety’s Dennis Harvey. By and large, it was a positive review of the film complimenting the film’s overall message and most of the stylistic choices made. He even praises Carey Mulligan’s performance in the lead role. But where the review became questionable was around this line:
“Mulligan, a fine actress, seems a bit of an odd choice as this admittedly many-layered apparent femme fatale — Margot Robbie is a producer here, and one can (perhaps too easily) imagine the role might once have been intended for her.”
The general interpretation of this line by Carey Mulligan and many others was rather succinct. Essentially, they felt that this heavily implied Mulligan wasn’t good looking to have been cast in this role and Robbie, from this standpoint, would have been a more suitable choice. The review doesn’t say this specifically of course, though it isn’t hard to get from A-to-B with the choice of words.
Carey Mulligan was furious when she read the review, seeming genuinely hurt by the focus on her looks in this part of the writeup. She felt Harvey was saying that in the context of the film, in which Mulligan’s character is pulling off a scheme to essentially seduce men (it’s more than that, but for now we’ll keep it there) didn’t play well because of her looks.
The outcry from Carey Mulligan and others led Variety to print an apology in reference to Harvey’s review. Though they left the line in the review, choosing to not change it from the original print, they did put a note at the top. It says:
“EDITOR’S NOTE: Variety sincerely apologizes to Carey Mulligan and regrets the insensitive language and insinuation in our review of Promising Young Woman that minimized her daring performance.”
Amidst the allegations of sexism by Dennis Harvey from Carey Mulligan, the former did choose to respond and in no way offered an apology. In fact, it went the other way in saying that he was stunned by the overall reaction to his words. This actual review was written over a year ago but is just recently stirring up the controversy. Here’s what Harvey had to say in an interview with the Guardian.
“I did not say or even mean to imply Mulligan is ‘not hot enough’ for the role…I’m a 60-year-old gay man. I don’t actually go around dwelling on the comparative hotnesses of young actresses, let alone writing about that.”
From this perspective, it’s easy to see why Harvey might have been confused by Carey Mulligan’s reaction. It would appear that even if the line did come off a certain way, there could be a lack of intent. It doesn’t really excuse the comparison, but if something was lost in translation, it could have been more user error than an actual attempt at digging Mulligan’s looks.
Promising Young Woman has earned fantastic reviews from critics since premiering at Sundance just about a year ago. It’s sitting at 91% on Rotten Tomatoes with critics particularly praising Carey Mulligan’s performance as a disaffected medical student who has an encounter that plays into many themes of the day. Let’s hope this one review doesn’t overshadow the work done by Mulligan in the movie.