Shirley (2020) online

Year: 2020
Country: USA
Time: 1h 47min
Shirley is a 2020 American biographical drama film, directed by Josephine Decker, from a screenplay by Sarah Gubbins, based upon the novel of the same name by Susan Scarf Merrell, which formed a "largely fictional story" around novelist Shirley Jackson's real life during the time period she was writing Hangsaman. The film stars Elisabeth Moss as Jackson with Michael Stuhlbarg, Odessa Young and Logan Lerman. Martin Scorsese serves as an executive producer.

Shirley had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival on January 25, 2020 where Decker won a U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Auteur Filmmaking and was released on June 5, 2020, by Neon. The film received positive reviews, with praise for Moss's performance.

Fred and Rose Nemser are newlyweds relocating to Bennington College for Fred's job as a lecturer. Fred is about to work for Stanley Hyman while Rose, still a student, is immediately enthralled by the work of Stanley's wife, Shirley Jackson.

Shortly after their arrival, Stanley asks Rose to do menial jobs around the house as Shirley is struggling with her output as a writer and a recent bout of agoraphobia. Fred and Rose move into the house and Rose is shocked to find her chores more akin to the role of a housekeeper. She also witnesses how Stanley and Shirley's marriage is bitter and acrimonious. Shirley is initially deliberately provocative and cruel to Rose.

As the Nemsers move into their house Shirley begins writing, announcing a new work based on Paula Jean Welden, a young woman who recently disappeared from Bennington's campus. Stanley is controlling and obsessive over Shirley's writing, believing her to be a genius but forcing her to stay committed to her output. Despite her initial cruelty, Shirley begins to think of Rose as somewhat of a muse and opens up to her, having her do research for her, including stealing the medical files for Paula Jean Welden. As the two grow closer Rose becomes more protective of Shirley and a sexual flirtation builds up between them.

In the meantime, the relationship between Stanley and Fred deteriorates as Stanley seeks to tamp down Fred's academic ambitions and torpedo his career.

Some months later Rose gives birth and Shirley remains deep in the throes of writing. Feeling that the Nemsers have served their purpose, Stanley arranges for them to move out. Desperate to stay, Rosie writes Paula Jean Welden's name in a library book and gives it to Shirley, implying that Paula could have been taking a course with Stanley and having an affair with him. To her shock, Shirley is unaffected and reveals that she is well aware of who Stanley is having an affair with and that Paula was not one of his lovers. She also reveals that Fred has been having affairs with his students the whole time.

After confronting Fred, Rose runs off to the trail where Paula disappeared and Shirley finds her on the verge of jumping off a cliff. Rose returns home and she and Fred finally leave the Hynes-Jackson house, though Rose vows never to return to being the docile domestic wife of before.
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