WILD NIGHTS WITH EMILY – A Review by Cynthia Flores
If you ever loved poetry, even once, watch this movie and correct your education about Emily Dickinson. This new film from writer/director Madeleine Olnek is entertaining and even comical at times. The whole aesthetic of the film is that of a play on stage instead of the realistic period pieces we have come to expect on film. However, this works to the advantage of its topic of Emily’s work. Which is the focal point of this film. It allows the poetry of one of America’s finest poets to shine through and come to life in surprising and unexpected ways.
In the mid-19th century, Emily Dickinson (Molly Shannon) is writing prolifically, baking gingerbread, and enjoying a passionate, lifelong romantic relationship with another woman. Her best friend since grade school and now her sister-in-law Susan (Susan Ziegler). This is the iconic American poet, always thought to have been a recluse and tormented by unrequited love for an unnamed man. The truth of her life is drawn from her private letters to Susan that her niece published once they were gone.
Emily was not a wilting wallflower but a vibrant, brilliant poet ahead of her time. While seeking publication of some of the 1,775+ poems written during her lifetime, Emily finds herself facing a troupe of male literary gatekeepers such as Mr. Higginson (Brett Gelman), editor and contributor of the Atlantic Monthly. They were too confused by her genius to take her work seriously. Instead, her work attracts the attention of an ambitious woman editor Mabel (Amy Seimetz), who also sees Emily as an available cover for her own role in buttoned-up Amherst’s most bizarre love triangle involving Emily’s brother Austin (Kevin Seal). A timely critique of how women’s history is rewritten, Wild Nights With Emily is a humorous and bold reappraisal of Dickinson. Molly Shannon gives us a closer depiction of Emily Dickinson’s real life and a new way to view the poets’ work. I give this film an A rating.
Directed by Madeleine Olnek
Written By Madeleine Olnek
Selig rating A
Running Time 84min
Comedy / Biography
Limited Release The Angelika Film Center April 19th
Starring: Molly Shannon, Amy Seimetz, Susan Ziegler, Brett Gelman
The Selig Rating Scale:
A – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
B – Good movie
C – OK movie
D – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
F – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.