Film review: “Shirley”

Josephine Decker channels the gothic atmosphere and horribly thrilling storytelling of Shirley Jackson’s writing in this fictionalised portrait of the author

It’s hard to succinctly describe what Shirley is, but it most assuredly isn’t a biopic. Josephine Decker and screenwriter Sarah Gubbins (adapting Susan Scarf Merrell’s novel) give us a fictionalized portrait of author Shirley Jackson (Moss), presenting her as if she was a character in one of her stories.

The gothic atmosphere, psychological fragmentation and cruel barbs recall Jackson’s writing, but the aesthetic style is all Decker’s. Her woozily subjective camerawork and fluid approach to narrative will likely alienate as many as it entrances, but few could deny it’s a bracingly inventive and bold piece of work – every scene feels charged with anxiety, bitterness or desire.

As in Madeline’s Madeline, Decker probes at the point where artistic inspiration and exploitation meet. Rose (Young) is a young woman entering Jackson’s life just as she writes about the disappearance of a female college student. As reality and fiction blend, Rose grows into a far more complicated and intriguing character than the wide-eyed newlywed we are introduced to, and Young more than holds her own against her co-stars. Michael Stuhlbarg is perfectly awful as Jackson’s smarmy and condescending husband, while Moss attacks the title role with relish, giving us a painfully vulnerable yet larger than life Jackson. “I’m a witch, didn’t anyone tell you?” she tells Rose when they first meet, and you half-believe her.

Source: The Skinny

Shirley Jackson centenary: a quiet, hidden rage

Born 100 years ago today, Shirley Jackson wrote stories filled with nameless dread that still speak to women’s anger

I first encountered Shirley Jackson through a single short story, “The Daemon Lover”, which I read when I was 12 without knowing any of her other work. Later, I rediscovered the story, along with the rest of Jackson’s writing, and became a fervent admirer of this brilliant and (at that time) much underrated American author.
In some ways, “The Daemon Lover”, from a 1949 collection is a typical Jackson story. An unnamed woman of 34 (though only 30 on her marriage certificate) wakes up on the day of her wedding to a man called James Harris. Impatiently the woman waits for her fiance to arrive, drinking cups of coffee and obsessing over trivia – her choice of dress, the flowers, the light meal she is planning after the ceremony. Hours pass, and at last it becomes clear that the fiance is a no-show. The woman, who does not know where he lives, leaves her flat in search of him, asking locals for a James Harris in hope of resolving the misunderstanding; after a Kafkaesque sequence of increasingly paranoid encounters, she ends up in front of an apartment door, behind which she can hear voices, but which, Continue reading