In a just-posted Variety video chat between Promising Young Woman‘s Carey Mulligan and Malcom & Marie‘s Zendaya, Mulligan offers her reaction to Variety management having apologized for a portion of Dennis Harvey’s 1.26.20 review of Mulligan’s film.
Mulligan’s assessment is astute and wise, but the timing of Variety‘s apology is crucial to understanding what actually happened here.
Harvey filed the review during last January’s Sundance Film Festival, but the apology didn’t appear until Mulligan complained to the N.Y. Times‘ Kyle Buchanan in a 12.23.20 profile.
Variety‘s mea culpa: “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.”
Three important caveats: One, Harvey’s review passed muster with Variety‘s editors 12 months ago and nobody said boo — not until political pressure was brought to bear did they say a word. Two, a trade paper apologizing for a review is bad form and a bad precedent — Variety should have instead posted a counter-review that argued with Harvey. (I personally disagreed with what Harvey said about Mulligan vs. Robbie — his remarks missed the point of the film.) And three, out of respect for Harvey’s years of excellent reviews Variety should have given him an opportunity to explain his viewpoint more fully. Instead they threw him under the bus, and in so doing bruised his reputation.
Variety has devoted a special page to Mulligan’s just-posted remarks about the Harvey brouhaha. Kate Aurthur‘s intro to Mulligan’s reaction states the following: “Though the review…was mostly positive, the Variety newsroom agreed with Mulligan.” 11 months after the fact, she meant to say. After Mulligan complained to Kyle Buchanan and not before. Variety didn’t apologize for jack diddly squat when the review ran a year ago. Let’s make that crystal clear.
Repeating HE’s response to Harvey’s review: I don’t agree at all with Harvey’s opinion of Mulligan. I’ve always found her fetching, for one thing. And young male party animals looking to take advantage of a seemingly drunk woman is not a syndrome triggered by exceptional Margot Robbie-level attractiveness. It’s basically a heartless predatory thing, whether the woman is a 9.5 or a 7 or whatever.
Journo pally reaction: “[Harvey’s remark about Mulligan] was stupid and wrong. Not offensive, just dumb. It’s not like this is a movie that has men falling all over Mulligan all of the time, as they would with Robbie. The point is she’s drunk and they can take advantage of that. I don’t think people realize how low standards go [when bars are about to close and everyone’s had a few]. If anything, Mulligan is TOO attractive to make that point. Imagine Amy Schumer in that part then you’re getting closer to the truth.
“I personally do not care that Harvey wrote what he wrote, and Variety should not apologize. How gross.”