In Anatomy of a Scene, we ask the directors to reveal the secrets that go into creating key scenes in their films. Watch new episodes in the series on Fridays. You can also watch our collection of 150+ videos on YouTube and subscribe to our YouTube channel.
“I’m a nice guy,” says Neil, the character played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse in this scene from Promising Young Woman, which received four Golden Globe nominations this week and is available upon request. He pronounces the line (more than once) after picking up Cassandra (Carey Mulligan). He thought she was too drunk to refuse, and she turns out to be anything but. The film is a kind of revenge story with Cassandra at the center, but in a way it defies a simple categorization of genres.
With this sequence, the film’s writer and director Emerald Fennell said she was aiming for a subversion of the scene normally found in romantic comedies, and even cast Mintz-Plasse, who perhaps best viewed the audience from the comedy “Superbad” knows.
“The nerdy nice guy who is not very confident with women and may have trouble writing his first novel,” she said, “may use alcohol as a cover for more shameful activities.”
The situation plays out in the fact that two narratives are perceived very differently by the characters involved, and Fennell directed her cast in such a way that these contrasts are enhanced.
“If you look at Chris’ performance, what I said to him, like I said to everyone in this movie, was really, this is your movie, you are the romantic hero, you are the nice guy, and that is your fall-in-love moment. “
For Cassandra, a woman who regularly advocates this behavior, Fennell admired how well Mulligan embodied the two elements of character.
“She’s just so brilliant at drawing that line between being completely real and knowing.”
Read the “Promising Young Woman” review.