Thursday, March 15, 2018

SXSW with Abe: Wild Nights with Emily

I’m so excited to be attending the film festival at South by Southwest for the first time, and I’ll be posting reviews throughout the week as I see as many movies as possible!

Wild Nights with Emily
Directed by Madeleine Olnek
Narrative Spotlight

Writers contribute something lasting to the world that continues to endure long past their lives, at least for those who know about the existence of what they have written. Posthumous publication prevents the writer from benefiting from the public reception to their work, which may improve over time and therefore be worth withholding until the time is right. Yet there’s no real way to know that, and whatever anyone may think during a person’s lifetime if their work is not published until after they die, the writer’s ability to react to the response to their work is a privilege that those published posthumously are not able to enjoy.

Molly Shannon and Susan Ziegler star in the film

Emily Dickinson (Molly Shannon) lives a solitary life, barely leaving her house and spending her days penning poems and carrying on a secret romantic relationship with Susan (Susan Ziegler), her brother Austin’s wife. Discouraged by all, including publisher T.W. Higginson (Brett Gelman), from publishing her poems, they are left to be discovered after her death by the opportunistic Mabel Todd (Amy Seimetz), who carried on a lengthy affair with Austin, and who fails in every way to capture the true essence of who Emily was and what her reasons for not being published during her lifetime truly were.

Director Madeleine Olnek discusses the film

This film, from writer-director Madeleine Olnek, tells this story of Emily through a distinctly comedic lens, treating as absurd any notion that Emily not being published was because of her own desire to withhold her work for after she was gone and that her documented romance with Susan is mere conjecture. Casting Shannon, primarily known for comedy, in the title role is just the first of many signals about this film’s tone, which begins with a humorous scene and just continues throughout painting these wild nights as highly entertaining and relatively ridiculous in nature, far less serious than much of Emily’s writing.

The cast and crew discuss the film

Shannon is clearly having fun playing Dickinson, and it’s an interpretation that allows her to be far funnier and livelier in the company of selected people than most expect. Seimetz milks her professional gossip for all it’s worth, and Ziegler steals much of the film with a passionate performance as a woman resigned to the times but determined to enjoy what she can of life anyway. The film as a whole is enjoyable and groundbreaking in its own right, an amusing take on one of the most famous authors of all time that attempts to do its subject its own form of justice.


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