Shirley – Horrifyingly Gifted

REVIEW
by Sophia Beilinson
02.11.2020
How far people may go in search of inspiration? In a desperate attempt to catch the silhouette of her future novel, Shirley Jackson tries all possible means resulting in almost killing a young woman, eventually breaking her marriage.

On the third day of the the 15th AMFEST*Fall festival, we were presented a new film by experimental director Josephine Decker. Before that, she made a psychological thriller Butter on the Latch (2013), an erotic thriller Thou Wast Mild and Lovely (2014), and a drama Madeline's Madeline (2018).
Shirley (2020) is a biographical drama with thriller elements and is also the adaptation of Susan Scarf Merrell's eponymous novel. It tells the story of newlyweds who've come to live under the same roof with the eccentric author and her husband, college professor and literature critic Stanley Hyman. In order to help Shirley break through her writer's block, the old couple starts torturing their young neighbors, both mentally and physically. Though it might sound like a classical bio-pic, this film is closer to the thriller genre and contains many fiction parts. The movie features Elisabeth Moss as Shirley, Michael Stuhlbarg as Stanley, Odessa Young as Rose and Logan Lerman as her husband Fred.
First, let's look at the real Shirley Jackson – a sharp woman with a journalism degree. She is famous for creating brilliant horror-mystery novels and more than 200 short stories. Shirley was happily married to Stanley; they had four kids together. She managed to do both her writing and all the housework. While she struggled with many difficulties, her optimistic attitude didn't falter. However, the situation in the film is quite twisted. The person we see is unstable, so Shirley's husband controls her life in every possible way: he arranges her day, gives her allowance, chooses people who would work for her. They are equally uncompromising and in love with masterpieces she creates.
The protagonist (Rose) gives the audience a peek into the world of the talented family and, strangely enough, so does the music. The soundtrack is quiet and barely visible, you don't even pay attention to it, unless you're a composer, but there are dozens of sounds in the scenes that make you feel involved into the action. The color palette revolves around sepia; it suits the calm and patient storytelling, with a touch of horror aesthetic. The plot blooms through the ordinary frames, sometimes even a bit too ordinary. The cast is wonderful, the locations are perfect, yet the film lacks something important. It's not unique.
When you've seen plenty of thrillers and dramas, you just have no reason to choose this particular movie; unless you're a crazy fan of Shirley Jackson, Josephine Decker or each of the leading actors. In case you prefer retro-style modern films, make sure to check it. If you're interested in the dark side of writing (art also lines up here), be welcome. It may also be a right pick for an evening after a tiresome day when all you want is to shut yourself down and enjoy the gloomy mood.
 
Shirley – Horrifyingly Gifted
REVIEW
by Sophia Beilinson
02.11.2020
How far people may go in search of inspiration? In a desperate attempt to catch the silhouette of her future novel, Shirley Jackson tries all possible means resulting in almost killing a young woman, eventually breaking her marriage.

On the third day of the the 15th AMFEST*Fall festival, we were presented a new film by experimental director Josephine Decker. Before that, she made a psychological thriller Butter on the Latch (2013), an erotic thriller Thou Wast Mild and Lovely (2014), and a drama Madeline's Madeline (2018).
Shirley (2020) is a biographical drama with thriller elements and is also the adaptation of Susan Scarf Merrell's eponymous novel. It tells the story of newlyweds who've come to live under the same roof with the eccentric author and her husband, college professor and literature critic Stanley Hyman. In order to help Shirley break through her writer's block, the old couple starts torturing their young neighbors, both mentally and physically. Though it might sound like a classical bio-pic, this film is closer to the thriller genre and contains many fiction parts. The movie features Elisabeth Moss as Shirley, Michael Stuhlbarg as Stanley, Odessa Young as Rose and Logan Lerman as her husband Fred.
First, let's look at the real Shirley Jackson – a sharp woman with a journalism degree. She is famous for creating brilliant horror-mystery novels and more than 200 short stories. Shirley was happily married to Stanley; they had four kids together. She managed to do both her writing and all the housework. While she struggled with many difficulties, her optimistic attitude didn't falter. However, the situation in the film is quite twisted. The person we see is unstable, so Shirley's husband controls her life in every possible way: he arranges her day, gives her allowance, chooses people who would work for her. They are equally uncompromising and in love with masterpieces she creates.

The protagonist (Rose) gives the audience a peek into the world of the talented family and, strangely enough, so does the music. The soundtrack is quiet and barely visible, you don't even pay attention to it, unless you're a composer, but there are dozens of sounds in the scenes that make you feel involved into the action. The color palette revolves around sepia; it suits the calm and patient storytelling, with a touch of horror aesthetic. The plot blooms through the ordinary frames, sometimes even a bit too ordinary. The cast is wonderful, the locations are perfect, yet the film lacks something important. It's not unique.
When you've seen plenty of thrillers and dramas, you just have no reason to choose this particular movie; unless you're a crazy fan of Shirley Jackson, Josephine Decker or each of the leading actors. In case you prefer retro-style modern films, make sure to check it. If you're interested in the dark side of writing (art also lines up here), be welcome. It may also be a right pick for an evening after a tiresome day when all you want is to shut yourself down and enjoy the gloomy mood.
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