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Country: USA, Language: English, 106 mins

  • Director: Josephine Decker
  • Writer: Sarah Gubbins; Susan Scarf Merrell
  • Producer: Sarah Gubbins; David Hinojosa; Simon Horsman; Elisabeth Moss; Sue Naegle; Jeffrey Soros; Christine Vachon

CGiii Comment

Eeew...what utterly ghastly people! Academics playing's both unpleasant and [strangely] compelling. warned: It is NOT a biopic.

The only question that has to be asked: What would Shirley Jackson have to say about this fictional account of herself and her life? A helluva lot...if this depiction is anything to go by. Her venom would be spewed - quite rightly - into the faces of those responsible.

By all accounts, she was neither bisexual nor lesbian - why portray her as such? This whole project - book and film - has that shabby stink of slash/fan-fiction about it - the writer of the book, Susan Scarf Merrell never met Ms, she created her own version of her! Why? Not only is this plagiarising someone's life...which is pretty bad form...but, to create such falsehood is downright disrespectful, irresponsible...even criminal. 

It really is difficult to say anything complimentary about this film...yes, it is well-acted...but, with such erratic direction [and the concept as a whole]...not even the acting can save poor Shirley's reputation. 

1 star...for production values and acting...but, to re-inventive a [real] person is wrong. So so wrong.


The(ir) Blurb...

Two imposing personalities are at the centre of this intensely atmospheric drama: horror writer Shirley Jackson and her husband Stanley Hyman, a literary critic and college professor. When young graduate student Fred Nemser and his pregnant wife Rose move in with the Hymans in the autumn of 1964, they soon find themselves under the magnetic spell of their brilliant and proudly unconventional hosts. But Shirley’s need to nurture her writing is a ravenous beast that threatens to devour Fred and Rose’s own relationship. A group of equally formidable creative figures is responsible for this chilling treat. One of them is director Josephine Decker, who with each new film hones a striking mix of boldness and sensitivity. And Elisabeth Moss is delightfully unsettling as the complicated Shirley Jackson, an author who has only recently been recognised as a major figure in the American Gothic tradition and on whose life this film is loosely based. Her troubled psyche permeates the film and leaves us as giddy as if we too were under her wicked spell.

Cast & Characters

Elisabeth Moss as Shirley Jackson
Logan Lerman
Michael Stuhlbarg as Stanley Hyman
Odessa Young
Margarita Allen
Steve Vinovich as Henry
Ryan Spahn as Drunk Cad
Lexa Hayes as Party Goer
Adelind Horan as Paula Double
Molly Fahey as Faculty Wife
Allen McCullough as Norman
Emily Decker as Prissy College Girl
Thomas Racek as Party Guest
Edward O'Blenis as Ralph Ellison
Tony Manna as Drunken Fellow