Bold, vibrant and darkly comical, “Promising Young Woman” starring Carey Mulligan has garnered critics’ and journalists’ attention since its debut at the Sundance Film Festival. Focus Features has held three all guild screenings comprised of voting members of the Academy, BAFTA and other voting bodies. Variety has learned exclusively that Emerald Fennell’s film has been submitted to the Golden Globes in the comedy or musical categories.
The film tells the story of Cassandra, a once-promising young woman who is traumatized by a mysterious event in her past. Utilizing her wit while keeping a running tally, she can seek revenge from anyone who crosses her path.
In her directorial debut, Emerald Fennell, who also wrote the screenplay, explores delicate subject matter regarding sexual assault and the constant threat women face day-to-day. In the past, we’ve seen films go the “comedy” route for a seemingly easier pathway to a nomination such as Spike Jonze’s “Her” or Ridley Scott’s “The Martian.” Fennell’s film unfolds with plenty of humorous, light-hearted beats, achieving a result only a woman filmmaker could execute. Is it the right call? The tone leans on the lighter side throughout, boasting an outstanding soundtrack that gives a Mulligan/Bo Burnham dance to remember. I think it’s the right call for the studio that has quite a few comedies in the mix, including “Emma” and “Kajillionaire.”
So what does this mean for the awards chances? The film could prove to be very competitive in the best picture (comedy or musical) race. Movies like “Borat Subsequent Moviefilm,” “On the Rocks” and “The Prom” are likely candidates, but “Promising Young Woman” could go the way of “Lady Bird” and “The Kids Are All Right,” two female-driven films that also found their way to Oscar attention.
For Mulligan, who hasn’t received an Oscar nomination since 2009’s “An Education,” she may have the goods to rival Meryl Streep’s Broadway star in “The Prom” or Michelle Pfeiffer’s percolating socialite in “French Exit.” Per HFPA rules, members can vote to accept a submission given in a category, both for genre or lead or supporting designations. A 2/3 vote is required to change the submission. A24’s “Uncut Gems” with Adam Sandler was rejected as a comedy last year and was moved into the drama races, failing to find HFPA love. Despite criticism, Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” was accepted for its comedy submission.
A win in comedy races doesn’t always translate to Oscar attention. Despite her win last year for “The Farewell,” Awkwafina failed to make the Oscar lineup while Todd Phillips’ “The Hangover” didn’t come close to the Dolby despite a year of ten best picture nominees.
Burnham has been submitted for best supporting actor in a motion picture, while Laverne Cox and Molly Shannon will seek consideration in supporting actress. For Fennell, the screenplay race will be up for grabs as the HFPA doesn’t split the category by original and adapted scripts like the Oscars. In directing, she could find some traction. Ava DuVernay was the last woman recognized for 2014’s “Selma,” which failed to be recognized by the Academy. To date, Barbra Streisand is the only woman ever to win best director for 1983’s “Yentl,” which didn’t translate to the Oscars.
All films and television programs had to be submitted for HFPA consideration by Nov. 30. “Promising Young Woman” will open in theaters on Dec. 25.
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