Sommerleigh Pollonais – Senior Writer
They say Art imitates Life, but what happens when the artist manipulates another’s reality to achieve that art! Well then, you get Shirley.
Let’s get this out of the way from the beginning – Shirley is a movie that general audiences are gonna dismiss as tedious, uneven and overly complicated. And to some extent I agree. The story here follows a young couple who, due to unforeseen circumstances, end up living with a professor and his eccentric but brilliant wife, who also happens to be a famous horror author.
The strength of this film is in the performances, specifically those of Odessa Young and the unconquerable Elizabeth Moss. Moss never fails to deliver as an actress, with her last outing in The Invisible Man still being praised as one of the best reasons to watch that movie. Here we see her darker side as she messes with both Odessa Young as Rose and by extension the viewing audience.
I kept swinging back and forth between feeling sympathy and utter malice for her character Shirley. Odessa Young holds her own in these moments and her performance is equally as compelling and engaging. Both women are the driving force of the story and really the main reason I kept watching. Actor Michael Stulbarg was also noteworthy as Shirley’s husband Stanley, a man who could teach classes in the art of manipulation. Logan Lerman disappears in his role here and not in a good way. I really liked him in the tv series Hunters though!
A couple of other positives would definitely be the score and the cinematography. The movie has an almost dream-like (or drug induced) haze to it, that makes you feel very uncomfortable while you’re watching. Yet there are moments that a crystal clear and beautifully shot and executed. As the story unfolds, you begin to see the genius of this choice as it plays directly into the story’s themes. Style points to director Josephine Decker for this one.
Unfortunately the overall execution of this film is messy, with the whole thing structured in a way that makes you wonder if the story is supposed to be a supernatural or a psychological one. I know this was done deliberately as to throw the viewing audience of the scent of what was really going on, but all it accomplished was making me feel bored and confused, while wishing for everything to just hurry up and get to the conclusion.
It’s one of those movies where you have to pay full attention to what’s happening (no Candy Crush while you’re watching this one) or else when the mystery is revealed, you’ll be totally lost. I’m not gonna pretend I didn’t have difficulties unpacking this one and the somewhat sluggish pace didn’t make things any easier. That said the performances, cinematography and mystery kept me invested and I think Shirley is a great story that probably makes for better reading than it does viewing.
Considering the themes at play, the irony isn’t lost on me.
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Sommerleigh of the House Pollonais. First of Her Name. Sushi Lover, Queen of Horror Movies, Comic Books and Binge Watching Netflix. Mother of two beautiful black cats named Vader and Kylo. I think eating Popcorn at the movies should be mandatory, PS4 makes the best games ever and I’ll be talking about movies until the zombie apoclaypse come.
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