review

Shirley: the female Stephen King

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Shirley Jackson was an American author whose horror stories were as good as those of Stephen King. The biopic Shirley is particularly enjoyable thanks to the excellent performance from Elisabeth Moss.

Shirley Jackson (1916-1965) had a hard life. The American author wrote darkly poetic horror stories that were easily as good as those of Stephen King or even Edgar Allan Poe, but she did not receive the recognition she deserved. Furthermore, there is a strong suspicion that she was able to treat themes like loneliness, alienation, and despair with such refinement because she was herself painfully familiar with them. Jackson was trapped in a marriage to a domineering, unfaithful professor and wrestled with depression, agoraphobia, and gossipy housewives who looked down on her.

This biopic is particularly enjoyable thanks to the excellent performance from Elisabeth Moss. The actress plays the eccentric, brilliant, but also acerbic writer without any coquetry. Of somewhat less interest is the plot: Shirley snaps at the pregnant wife of her husband's assistant, but the wife gets Shirley over her writer's block. Shirley Jackson herself would probably have come up with something a little more exciting.

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