Carey Mulligan Explains Why a Promising Young Woman Review That Criticized Her Appearance 'Stuck With' Her
"We need to see real women portrayed on screen and in all of their complexity," the actress said
Carey Mulligan is opening up about the impact a negative review had on her as an actress — and as a woman in general.
Last month, in an interview with The New York Times, the 35-year-old actress spoke candidly about a review of her film Promising Young Woman from Variety, in which the critic her "a fine actress," albeit one who "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," the review continues. "Whereas with this star, Cassie wears her pickup-bait gear like bad drag; even her long blonde hair seems a put-on."
While chatting recently with Zendaya for Variety's Actors on Actors series, Mulligan further discussed the review, noting, "It made me concerned that in such a big publication, an actress' appearance could be criticized and that could be accepted as completely reasonable criticism."
"It stuck with me, because I think it's these kind of everyday moments that add up — that mean that we start to edit the way that women appear on screen and we want them to look a certain way," she continued. "We want to airbrush them and we want to make them look perfect. Or we want to edit the way that they work, the way they move and the way that they think and behave."
"And I think we need to see real women portrayed onscreen and in all of their complexity," she added. "So I felt that it was one small thing to point out that could be helpful."
In the black-comedy thriller, Mulligan plays Cassie, a conniving former medical student who had a bright future ahead of her until a traumatizing event derailed her life, leading her down a road of revenge.
Detailing to the Times that she "took issue" with Variety's review, Mulligan also said, "It felt like it was basically saying that I wasn't hot enough to pull off this kind of ruse."
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Variety later added a statement to the publication's review after Mulligan's quotes.
"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," the publication said.
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While chatting with Zendaya, 24, Mulligan also shared that it was "nerve-racking to rock the boat with a big publication" but said it was a necessary move on her part.
"You've got to stand up for these things," she said during the conversation. "Otherwise, it continues and then you're essentially part of it."
Mulligan also noted that she was "really surprised and thrilled to have received an apology" from Variety. "I kind of found it moving, in a way, to have drawn a line under that in a good way, and know that that had an impact in a way," she said. "So it was positive."
Going forward, Mulligan said it is important for women to "tell authentic stories."
"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 said. "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 that could be accepted as completely reasonable criticism."