Has anyone read Variety’s recently tacked-on apology for Dennis Harvey’s disparaging remarks about Carey Mulligan in a Promising Young Woman review that was written 11 months ago?
Harvey filed the review during last January’s Sundance Film Festival, but the apology coda didn’t appear until Mulligan complained to the N.Y. Times‘ Kyle Buchanan in a 12.23 profile, referencing Harvey’s 1.26.20 review.
“I read the Variety review because I’m a weak person,” Mulligan told Buchanan. “And I took issue with it. It felt like it was basically saying that I wasn’t hot enough to pull off this kind of ruse.”
Variety‘s apology, tacked on to Dennis Harvey’s 1.26.20 review after Carey Mulligan’s complaint to N.Y Times profiler Kyle Buchanan in a 12.23 article.
Harvey excerpt: “Mulligan, a fine actress, seems a bit of an odd choice as this admittedly many-layered apparent femme fatale. Margot Robbie is a producer [of Promising Young Woman], and one can (perhaps too easily) imagine the role might once have been intended for her. Whereas with this star, Cassie wears her pickup-bait gear like bad drag; even her long blonde hair seems a put-on.”
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.
On top of which Harvey’s remark slipped right through Variety‘s editors 11 months ago and nobody said boo.
And it was reasonable to suppose that Harvey’s remark, however insensitive, might find a certain resonance in the general culture when PYW opens. He was basically saying that as far as the popcorn crowd was concerned, Carey’s casting as a femme fatale might not have been the most arresting choice from a commercial perspective.
I strongly disagree — Mulligan is one of our greatest actresses not just because of her Streep-level chops (did anyone else see her in Skylight on Broadway?), but she has a sadness about her, a weight-of-the-world aura. She carries the ache of the world in her eyes, in the slightly downturned corners of her mouth, and most certainly upon her shoulders.
Read the wording of Variety’s apology — they’ve completely washed their hands of Harvey in this instance and have more or less thrown him under the bus.
If I were a senior Variety editor I’d offer Harvey a chance to explain his remark in greater depth, or to amend his gut reaction or expand upon it or whatever. I’d say that “while Variety editors and senior staff don’t share Harvey’s opinion and feel he missed what the film was saying and/or expressed himself somewhat insensitively, we’ve respected his skills and perceptions as a film critic for years, and we will continue to do so.”
Journo pally #1: “Carey Mulligan is great in the movie, but Harvey is allowed to state in his review that he would have preferred Robbie in the role — instead he’s being called out as a sexist by the wokesters for stating what is, essentially, a casting preference.”
Journo pally #2: “[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.”