Carey Mulligan called out a film critic who said she wasn't hot enough

Carey Mulligan explains why she called out a film critic who suggested she wasn’t ‘hot enough’ for Promising Young Woman role and that Margot Robbie would have been better fit

  • A review of Promising Young Woman, published by Variety last year, said Mulligan was an ‘odd choice’ for the role and an unconvincing femme fatale
  • The male critic also commented that Margot Robbie, a producer on the Emerald Fennell-directed movie, would have been a better fit
  • Mulligan, 35, first hit out at the review last month in an interview for the Times, saying ‘I was like, “Really? For this film, you’re going to write something that is so transparent? Now? In 2020?” I just couldn’t believe it.’
  • After Mulligan’s comments about the film review, Variety issued an apology to the actress for ‘minimizing her daring performance.’
  • Discussing why she spoke up about the review, the actress told Zendaya this month: ‘I think there’s an element to where we have idealized women on screen for so long that I think we start to lose sight of what women really look like’

Carey Mulligan has explained why she chose to speak out about a film review that suggested she wasn’t hot enough to play the lead character in Promising Young Woman. 

In the review, written by freelance film critic Dennis Harvey and first published by Variety in January last year, Mulligan is labeled as an ‘odd choice’ to play the femme fatale character.

Harvey also suggests that Margot Robbie, a producer on the project, should have taken on the role instead. 

Carey Mulligan has explained why she felt it was important to call out a film review that commented on her looks in her movie Promising Young Woman

The critic even compares Mulligan’s costumes in the movie to ‘bad drag’, and writes ‘even her long blonde hair seems a put-on’.

Given the film’s underlying theme of sexual assault, Mulligan, 35, felt the review, which was mostly positive aside from the unnecessary commentary on her looks, was disappointingly tone deaf.

The British star reflected on it in an interview last month, telling New York Times: ‘I read the Variety review, because I’m a weak person,’

She said the review suggested she wasn’t ‘hot enough to pull off this kind of ruse’ but she wasn’t talking about it because she was hurt, moreso because it missed the mark so much. 

‘It wasn’t some sort of ego-wounding thing — like, I fully can see that Margot Robbie is a goddess.’ she told the Times.

In the review, written by freelance film critic Dennis Harvey and first published by Variety in January last year, Mulligan is labeled as an ‘odd choice’ to play the femme fatale character

His preferred option: Critic Harvey also suggests that Margot Robbie, a producer on the project, should have taken on the role instead. The critic compares Mulligan’s costumes in the movie to ‘bad drag’

‘It drove me so crazy…I was like, “Really? For this film, you’re going to write something that is so transparent? Now? In 2020?” I just couldn’t believe it,’ she added. 

The movie sees Cassie, played by Mulligan, go to nightclubs and act highly intoxicated, luring predatory men back to her apartment so she can teach them a lesson when they try to take advantage of her.

It becomes clear as the film progresses that Mulligan’s character is still haunted by the rape of one of her best school friends and she makes it her mission to exact revenge on the perpetrators. 

After Mulligan’s comments about the film review, Variety posted an apology at the top of the review which read: ‘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.’ 

‘It drove me so crazy…I was like, “Really? For this film, you’re going to write something that is so transparent? Now? In 2020?” I just couldn’t believe it,’ Mulligan (seen here in the movie) said about the review in an interview last month

Ruse: The movie sees Cassie, played by Mulligan, go to nightclubs and act highly intoxicated, luring predatory men back to her apartment so she can teach them a lesson when they try to take advantage of her

In an interview with Zendaya on Variety’s Actors on Actors the actress praised the publication’s apology and talked more about why she spoke out about the film review.

‘I feel it’s important that criticism is constructive. I think it’s important that we are looking at the right things when it comes to work, and we’re looking at the art, and we’re looking at the performance and the way that a film is made. And I don’t think that goes to the appearance of an actor or your personal preference for what an actor does or doesn’t look like, which it felt that that article did,’ she said.

‘Which for me felt disappointing, because obviously the film is sort of tackling issues around our perceptions and our preconceived ideas about people. In the broadest sense, I think there’s an element to where we have idealized women on screen for so long that I think we start to lose sight of what women really look like. When I worked with Steve McQueen on Shame, he said, ‘Really, what we’re all doing is holding up a mirror. That’s what we do as storytellers,’ she went on to explain.

‘I think it’s important that we are looking at the right things when it comes to work, and we’re looking at the art, and we’re looking at the performance and the way that a film is made.’ In an interview with Zendaya on Variety’s Actors on Actors the actress talked more about why she spoke out about the film review


‘And I don’t think that goes to the appearance of an actor or your personal preference for what an actor does or doesn’t look like, which it felt that that article did,’ she said of the Variety review

‘And I think if women continually look on screen and don’t see themselves, that’s not helpful for women or for anyone, really — that we’re not going to tell authentic stories. So I think in criticizing or sort of bemoaning a lack of attractiveness on my part in a character, it wasn’t a personal slight, it wasn’t something that I felt. It didn’t wound my ego, but it made me concerned that in such a big publication, an actress’ appearance could be criticized and it could be that, you know, that could be accepted as completely reasonable criticism.

‘I think it’s important to call out those things, because they seem small and they seem insignificant. People around me at the time said, Oh, you know, get over it. Whatever. It’s great — it’s a great review. Or whatever: People love the film,’ she continued.

‘But it stuck with me, because I think it’s these kind of every day moments that add up — that mean that we start to edit the way that women appear on screen, and we want them to look a certain way. We want to airbrush them, and we want to make them look perfect. Or we want to edit the way that they work, the way they move, and the way that they think and behave. And I think we need to see real women portrayed on screen and in all of their complexity. So I felt that it was one small thing to point out that could be helpful.’

The Emerald Fennell-directed movie has received glowing reviews since it premiered at Sundance Film Festival in January 2020 and is now available to stream on Amazon Prime.

Hit: The Emerald Fennell-directed movie has received glowing reviews since it premiered at Sundance Film Festival in January 2020

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