In a profile in the New York Times in December, Carey Mulligan was asked about the initial reactions to her movie “Promising Young Woman” during its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January of last year. After Mulligan “winced” at the question, she answered.
“I read the Variety review, because I’m a weak person,’” she told the Times. She characterized the review as saying she wasn’t “hot enough to pull off this kind of ruse,” but said she wasn’t mentioning it because her feelings were hurt: “It wasn’t some sort of ego-wounding thing — like, I fully can see that Margot Robbie is a goddess.” (The review suggested that perhaps Robbie, a producer of “Promising Young Woman,” might have been a better choice for the role of Cassie.)
Since the Emerald Fennell film specifically skewers womanhood-as performance, writing critically about Mulligan’s appearance in “Promising Young Woman” struck her as a particularly absurd movie to be so tone deaf about. “It drove me so crazy,” Mulligan said to the Times. “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.”
Though the review, written by freelance critic Dennis Harvey, was mostly positive, the Variety newsroom agreed with Mulligan. Variety ended up adding an editor’s note at the top of the review, that reads: “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 Mulligan’s conversation with Zendaya for Variety’s Actors on Actors series, presented by Amazon Studios, Zendaya asked her about calling Variety out, and our magazine’s subsequent apology. “Beautifully said,” Zendaya said after Mulligan finished.