Throughout human history, it has been an unfortunate reality that those with power are able to get away with taking advantage of and mistreating those with less. In modern times, the idea of privilege has helped to reframe the natural advantages that certain people have over others that they may not realize because they have never had to live in someone else’s skin. For as many people as this perspective enlightens, there are just as many who are further emboldened to assert their dominance and push back against accusations of unfair advances that they cannot help having. Asking for It imagines a world in which a group of women fight back against the pervasive authority of men who just want to take what they believe is theirs.
Joey (Kiersey Clemons) is a waitress in a small town who is sexually assaulted on a date, an event she keeps to herself. One of her regular customers, Regina (Alexandra Shipp), notices that she is clearly going through something, and what begins as a night out together turns into an unofficial invitation to join Regina’s crew, a group of women who make it their mission to teach abusive men that there are consequences for their actions. Joey encounters a range of personalities who all have united to achieve a similar goal, one inspired by their collective and individual experiences of being treated as disposable and subhuman by men.
Introduced along with Joey and what she endures is Mark Vanderhill (Ezra Miller), the leader of a group called Men’s First Movement. He films videos advocating for men to go after their prey, echoing real-life alt-right groups that believe societal advances and liberal reforms are dangerous and reprehensible. He sees the path to what is typically considered progress as an excuse to act in an even more aggressive and domineering manner, ensuring that women learn their place and are encouraged to abandon any efforts to prove otherwise. It’s easy to hate Vanderhill and his cause, and he would likely even welcome such sentiments.
Asking for It doesn’t leave too much to the imagination with its title, and there will surely be those who believe that it romanticizes violence against men. Yet there is an explicit distinction between those who deserve what’s coming to them and those who don’t, and it’s these women who are exacting justice against the true perpetrators. This film takes things further than another strong revenge thriller, Promising Young Woman, making it very clear that there is no moral ambiguity and these are not merely bystanders who should have spoken up. They are the type of assailants who brag about their conquests and invite acclaim for their horrific actions.
Asking for It boasts a strong female cast led by Clemons and Shipp that also includes Vanessa Hudgens, Gabourey Sidibe, and Radha Mitchell. It manages to convey its point and purpose without being nearly as explicit as it could have been, not indulging in too many disturbing visuals involving its victims and instead focused on the fight they bring to their attackers and all who seek to disenfranchise them, including a brutally corrupt sheriff who rules his town with an iron fist. In that sense, it doesn’t unintentionally glorify the upsetting content it seeks to condemn. That it comes from a male writer-director, Eamon O’Rourke, making his feature debut, isn’t apparent simply from watching it, and that knowledge may actually enhance its effectiveness given that he taps into a perspective outside of himself. Perhaps if more men imagined this kind of response to the rampant chauvinism and unpunished acts of violence that occur all too frequently, the problem itself would be solved. This stylized and engaging film certainly delivers plenty to ponder.
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Asking for It is now playing in theaters, digital, and on demand.