Shirley is a biographical drama film, directed by Josephine Decker and stars Elisabeth Moss as novelist Shirley Jackson as well as Michael Stuhlbarg, Odessa Young and Logan Lerman. Shirley is based on the novel of the same name by Susan Scarf Merrell. It currently has a score of 90% on Rotten Tomatoes and first premiered at the Sundance film festival in January.
Elisabeth Moss surely has to be in contention for best actress this year with two great performances in both Shirley and The Invisible Man, for me, her performance in The Invisible Man just trumps this one but her performance as Shirley was still interesting to watch as Moss has an incredible range of emotions and expressions that can create a creepy vibe throughout. Michael Stuhlbarg and Odessa Young both give fantastic performances but Logan Lerman puts in a great performance as Fred Nemser and is always interesting to watch in any role however his ark feels predictable throughout and feels like the outsider of the main 4 despite giving a great performance.
Admittedly the plot is scattered with Decker creating a film that makes you think whilst not exactly keeping you entirely engaged. Shirley is unlike anything Decker has ever done, creating a thrilling fictional biographical film with an unsettling atmosphere that keeps you on edge throughout the entire 107 minute run time whilst not always being as interesting as it should. However, that's what Shirley does best, the unsettling atmosphere is exceptional through Odessa Young character Rose Nemser and the weird, intriguing and creepy interactions that happen between the 4 main characters only act to draw in the audience more and provide the film with a more interesting base.
Shirley feels like a film that deserves more than one watch to fully appreciate, however, for the first viewing the story feels scattered and confusing at times as the creepy atmosphere takes control of the film but doesn't end up scarring the audience at all. I must admit, I haven't read any of Susan Scarf Merrell's novels so the film didn't gravitate towards me the way it has with others.
The shaky cinematography and rough editing creates an uneasy environment that doesn't always work but when it does it's great, the scenery outside the house is beautiful to look at but once you go inside the house the uneasy atmosphere takes control and begins to make you think more about the thoughts running through the characters minds and the controlling nature of Michael Stuhlbarg character will makes for uneasy viewing for some audiences.
It's hard for me to recommend this movie, if you like creepy period films than this is the one for you but if, like me, you haven't read any of Susan Scarf Merrell work then this probably won't appeal to you. However, the greatest thing about this film is the technical aspects and how it gets into your mind with the camera lingering on faces to create a creepy tension throughout.
A review about Shirley is hard to write, the film technically is great but won't appeal to mass audiences like other big Hollywood films. I can appreciate Shirley for what it is, a psychological mind bender that gets into your head and makes you think like the characters but for me, Shirley isn't a film that exactly interested me like it should have even though it was well acted and intense from the very start. Shirley is probably too niche to attract the Academy's interest in Moss but The Invisible Man definitely should.
Shirley is often uncomfortable and bold, darkly funny and ridiculously well-acted but feels somewhat predictable for the first two acts and feels like it needs more than one watch to fully appreciate which I unfortunately I don't have any intentions to do so any time soon.