Carey Mulligan reacts to Variety apology for 'Promising Young Woman' review questioning her attractiveness
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In January of last year, the entertainment outlet ran its review of the #MeToo vengeance thriller following its debut at the Sundance Film Festival. The review by critic Dennis Harvey was mostly complimentary of the dark comedy, but also drew attention to the casting of Mulligan.
"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," Harvey wrote.
"Whereas with this star, Cassie wears her pickup-bait gear like bad drag; even her long blonde hair seems a put-on. The flat American accent she delivers in her lowest voice register likewise seems a bit meta, though it’s not quite clear what the quote marks around this performance signify. Still, like everything here, this turn is skillful, entertaining and challenging, even when the eccentric method obscures the precise message."
Mulligan, who has been generating Oscar buzz for her performance, knocked Variety's review during a recent interview with The New York Times when she was asked if she had read about the response to the film.
"I read the Variety review, because I’m a weak person, And I took issue with it," Mulligan told the Times. "It felt like it was basically saying that I wasn’t hot enough to pull off this kind of ruse."
Following her remarks, Variety added an editor's note to Harvey's initial review.
"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."
During a conversation with Zendaya on Variety's "Actors on Actors" series, Mulligan reacted to the outlet's apology.
"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," Mulligan began. "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.’
"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," she continued. "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."