M.F.A., 2017 – ★★★½

M.F.A. gives us, the viewers, the catharsis that Promising Young Woman withholds, and we aren’t better for it. The revenge film is such an old trope, and after the Hayes code it usually involved rape. With promising young men like Brock Turner getting off nearly scott free for raping fellow students, it’s no wonder that we should yearn to see people like him taken down in media, punished for their actions, by an avenging force. When presented with the reality of it, though, I think we may find ourselves more disappointed with the systems in place that allow for this rape culture to perpetuate, than we are gleeful at the subversion. We also know that, while in the revenge stories of old we usually cut to credits before the inevitable taking into custody of the vengeful person, this new breed will end in tragedy of some kind. And that’s maybe by design? Because the perpetrators of the rapes and attacks that are being revenged are monsters, and we want so desperately to endorse the person who’s giving them what they deserve, as the system supposed to do that has failed, ultimately we know they must go down, because that’s the price they pay for vengeance. It’s an unsettling reality, and makes it seem as those killed along the way somehow got off easy. MFA is a good film, with much to say, hampered by a high speed, nearly slasher movie middle, and commits the same sins of old in forcing us to watch the unflinching act of violence that sets the story in motion. Francesca Eastwood has superb moments of pathos, and her etherial beauty really sells them, but she switches on a dime to the threatening in control sword of vengeance, and that shift is a bit less believable. Personally, I would’ve liked to see the A Time To Kill-esque trial where a jury sides with her and lets her off.

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