Ewan Gleadow

Movie Review: Shirley

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Copyright: Neon

Wading her way through the thick fog of horror, Elisabeth Moss is now attempting to grasp at a potential throne of contemptible roles. Villainous caricatures or manic individuals now litter her filmography. UsThe Invisible Man, and this latest directed piece from Josephine Decker, Shirley. Out of the three presented to us over the past two years, Shirley is by and large the best of the bunch. Mediocre as it may be, it’s still a head above the rest, this fog grows ever thicker. The fumbling’s of Moss as she makes her way through this genre, an expedition doomed to failure, is admirable at best, but a waste of time at worst. 

A waste of my time, unacceptable in the current climate. I’ve no time for nonsense like Shirley, a thriller that almost hits the target of being relatively good. The arrow pointed towards its bullseye sags gravely whilst mid-flight, piercing the ground in front of its attempted victory. A famous horror writer in search of inspiration believes she’s found her next throwaway muse, accepting a young couple into her home. The expected musings of the genre are thrown in for good measure, we can’t have thrills without those tropes we’ve waded through before. Like a thick ooze, it sticks to our narrative with a fever like no other. To try and separate the two would be to destroy the very mould of Decker’s craft.  

Her work behind the camera offers us little in the way of compelling performance. Struggling to muster up any sort of courage, Decker drives us headfirst into the thick, horrid wall that is restrictive performance. Moss, Michael Stuhlbarg, Odessa Young and Logan Lerman, make for a phenomenal quartet, an even better one if Lerman were to be removed. While the couples let us down with their stand-off nature and icy tones, underwhelming at the best of times, harrowingly obvious at their worst, Decker makes up for it with pockets of brilliance. Her direction is an article of great interest, something which should be studied further as she crafts more and more. Hopefully her work can move far from the cliché of these vague thrillers. 

Similarities between Moss’ desire to become the fresh face of the horror genre and the calculated striking’s of our titular creep are engrossing to think of. Is Moss continuing down this route as an artistic avenue? Or is it to fulfil some feverish fantasy of villainy and disgust? Whatever the case, her search is far from over. Shirley is not the film to show her stylish choices, nor is it a film that displays Decker’s work well. A sad film. The sagging arrow of the genre, desperate to leave its mark. It scrabbles for some purpose or influence on the market, but there’s no such luck for these brave souls. They’re doomed to toil in the obscurity of an oversaturated, competitive league.