Shirley: Film Review

Shirley

I had been looking forward to seeing Shirley for months, basically since its U.S. release back in June, because I was intrigued to see Elisabeth Moss play reclusive author Shirley Jackson, but I didn’t love the story this movie told.

This biographical drama, based on the novel of the same name by Susan Scarf Merrell, begins with the arrival of newly married couple Fred (Logan Lerman) and Rosie (Odessa Young). Fred is beginning a new job at Bennington College, where Shirley’s husband Stanley (Michael Stuhlbarg) is a professor, and they have been offered a place to stay at their home while they find their feet. It sounds like a nice gesture at first but it soon becomes a nightmare for the couple as Shirley and Stanley take great pleasure in bringing them down and causing tension within their marriage.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Josephine Decker‘s previous movie Madeline’s Madeline because it was so experimental and weird but I had high hopes for Shirley as I assumed it would be more grounded in realism, given that it’s a biographical drama. And it is, to a degree, but it’s still a bit odd in places, especially in scenes of Shirley writing or thinking about a missing college girl named Paula, the subject of her latest novel.

I would have preferred a straight-up biopic about the famed author of The Haunting of Hill House. The novel and this film adaptation are a work of fiction but use many actual details from Shirley’s life, such as her heavy smoking, bouts of depression and agoraphobia, and acceptance of Stanley’s infidelity, so I found those aspects enlightening and interesting, but I thought too much attention was placed on Rosie and at one point, she felt like the centrepiece of the movie.

Moss always gives her performances 100% and I cannot fault her commitment to this mean-spirited part, while Stuhlbarg is perfectly cast as the self-important literary academic who loves the sound of his own voice. They both elevate the material and make it far more compelling than it should have been. Young was excellent as Rosie, who becomes increasingly unhappy in her marriage, and Lerman has the smallest role but doesn’t let the team down. I enjoyed watching their conversations around the dinner table – the dialogue in those scenes was very well written – but the film loses its way when it focuses too much on Shirley and Rosie’s burgeoning friendship/romance.

I don’t really know what I was expecting from Shirley but this wasn’t it. I still liked many aspects of it, like the performances and the dialogue, but the story didn’t satisfy me at all.

Seen as part of the London Film Festival. In cinemas from Friday 30th October

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Shirley: LFF Film Review

Shirley

I had been looking forward to seeing Shirley for months, basically since its U.S. release back in June, because I was intrigued to see Elisabeth Moss play reclusive author Shirley Jackson, but I didn’t love the story this movie told.

This biographical drama, based on the novel of the same name by Susan Scarf Merrell, begins with the arrival of newly married couple Fred (Logan Lerman) and Rosie (Odessa Young). Fred is beginning a new job at Bennington College, where Shirley’s husband Stanley (Michael Stuhlbarg) is a professor, and they have been offered a place to stay at their home while they find their feet. It sounds like a nice gesture at first but it soon becomes a nightmare for the couple as Shirley and Stanley take great pleasure in bringing them down and causing tension within their marriage.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Josephine Decker‘s previous movie Madeline’s Madeline because it was so experimental and weird but I had high hopes for Shirley as I assumed it would be more grounded in realism, given that it’s a biographical drama. And it is, to a degree, but it’s still a bit odd in places, especially in scenes of Shirley writing or thinking about a missing college girl named Paula, the subject of her latest novel.

I would have preferred a straight-up biopic about the famed author of The Haunting of Hill House. The novel and this film adaptation are a work of fiction but use many actual details from Shirley’s life, such as her heavy smoking, bouts of depression and agoraphobia, and acceptance of Stanley’s infidelity, so I found those aspects enlightening and interesting, but I thought too much attention was placed on Rosie and at one point, she felt like the centrepiece of the movie.

Moss always gives her performances 100% and I cannot fault her commitment to this mean-spirited part, while Stuhlbarg is perfectly cast as the self-important literary academic who loves the sound of his own voice. They both elevate the material and make it far more compelling than it should have been. Young was excellent as Rosie, who becomes increasingly unhappy in her marriage, and Lerman has the smallest role but doesn’t let the team down. I enjoyed watching their conversations around the dinner table – the dialogue in those scenes was very well written – but the film loses its way when it focuses too much on Shirley and Rosie’s burgeoning friendship/romance.

I don’t really know what I was expecting from Shirley but this wasn’t it. I still liked many aspects of it, like the performances and the dialogue, but the story didn’t satisfy me at all.

Seen as part of the London Film Festival. In cinemas from 30th October

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Emmys nominations: My thoughts

Emmy Awards

Today the nominations for the Primetime Emmy Awards were announced and this is a summary of my thoughts reading the shortlist:

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I was concerned The Invisible Man would be an extremely silly and gimmicky movie but I should have had more faith in horror genius Leigh Whannell and known he wouldn’t have done that to us. Instead he has taken the classic story and given it a radical and modern update.

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We’re now in a new month which means it’s time for my monthly movie preview.

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Today, Robert Redford received a Golden Globe nomination for what is rumoured to be his last acting role in The Old Man & the Gun, and while it remains to be seen if he sticks to his retirement plan, he can be happy in the knowledge that his final movie is one entertaining crime caper.

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The Old Man and the Gun: LFF Film Review

Robert Redford recently announced that The Old Man and the Gun would be his last acting role, and while it remains to be seen if he sticks to his retirement plan, he can be happy in the knowledge that his final movie is one entertaining crime caper.

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The Seagull: Film Review

The Seagull is one of Anton Chekhov’s most famous plays and it has been adapted many times, so I feel ashamed to say that I’ve never seen a version of it, on stage or screen, so I couldn’t possibly vouch for how this new take, directed by Michael Mayer and adapted by Stephen Karam, holds up against others.

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Was The Handmaid’s Tale season two a good idea?

The first season of The Handmaid’s Tale was based on the novel by Margaret Atwood, in its entirety, so when the second season was announced (which wasn’t a surprise given its success), people wondered if it would be a good idea to extend it beyond the source material. Now it has come to its conclusion, I can give my opinion.

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Oscars 2018: Best & Worst Dressed

This awards season, I have been doing the red carpet analysis for all the major awards shows and we’re now at the climax – the Oscars!

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