Wild Nights with Emily Poster

Dramatization of the little known side of the writer Emily Dickinson’s life, in particular, her relationship with another woman.


Madeleine Olnek

The first thing one notices about this biopic on American poet and writer Emily Dickinson is the casting of Saturday Night Live’s Molly Shannon in the time role of the adult Emily Dickinson.  Dickinson was a serious poet and even more serious a person, avoiding contact with the outside world for the most offer life.  The opening scene where Emily (Shannon) and Susan embrace falling on the floor as a result an over-compassionate kiss is obviously played for laughs.  The biopic of poet and author Emily Dickson is thus treated with some biting humour.  It is ambitious and challenging for the filmmakers to make a deadpan comedy on the life of serious Emily Dickinson. 

The film is part bio as re-enacted by the actors as directed, but the bio pic should be taken with a grain of salt.

The film begins with Emily in her teens, played by not Molly but by someone younger, Dana Melanie, in love with Susan Gilbert.  The two met during a recitation of the Amherst’s Shakespeare Society, and during a scene in which they play lovers, a romance blossoms.  On a stroll afterwards, they kiss. Emily’s family leaves for a month long trip, and Susan stays with Emily for the duration. They continue to spend time together, concealing the romantic aspect of their relationship from others.

Susan gets a teaching job out west, and they write countless love letters to each others while she is away. When she returns, Emily is surprised to learn that Susan has been betrothed to Emily’s brother Austin, which Susan had kept secret from her. Susan apologizes to Emily and explains that it’s all part of a greater scheme: Susan cannot financially support herself without getting married, and by marrying Austin they can build a house right next door to Emily and no one will suspect their romance.

The dead pan comedy ends up irrelevant at times and sometimes a bit funny and at other times not.  One has a possible publisher and his wife slurping tea loudly when served by Emily.  Another has Emily saying that she would listen to what a speaker would say, and the scene moves to this person mumbling under his breath all the way.  The most irrelevant has Emily and Susan engaged in a discussion in bed  just before Emily says’ “I have a desire for a strawberry”, before reaching out for one and eating it.

Odd too is the ending with Emily talking to another corpse in the adjoining room.  They have a discussion with the dead balks man asking her Why’d you die?”  The she replies ‘For beauty!”, he replies “him for truth.”  The meaning of what is occurring will escape many.  Or perhaps that is the purpose.

Weird does not automatically translate to smart or deadpan funny as evident in this biopic that ends up more like WEIRD NIGHTS WITH EMILY.



Film Preview: Half Magic (2017)

Three women unite out of their frustration over men. They pledge to each other that they should each learn to love themselves before they become romantically involved with anyone again.

Director: Heather Graham

Writer: Heather Graham

Stars: Heather Graham, Stephanie Beatriz, Johnny Knoxville, Jason Lewis, Thomas Kennon, Angela Kinsey, Molly Shannon, Luke Arnold, Chris D’Elia, Alex Beh, Michael Aronov, Jesse Heiman, Odessa Rae, Sandra Rosko, Patty Guggenheim, Lee Raviv

Half Magic is the directorial debut of Heather Graham. While the actress has starred in several mainstream and indie flicks, this is the first project where she serves as part of the creative team. According to Hollywood Reporter, the comedy film follows Honey (Graham’s character), along with two of her friends, as they make a pact to each find great sex and a good man, preferably from the same person.

Starring in a comedy is not particularly new to Graham, whose recent projects include the indie films “Wetlands” and “Last Rampage” and an advertising campaign for the hugely popular British gaming community Foxy Bingo. In fact, it has somewhat become her brand over the years. The Huffington Post said that the actress, who has consistently ranked as among the most beautiful faces in Hollywood, used her looks to her advantage and managed to make a career off the back of it. Writing the script and directing Half Magic, however, proves that she is more than just another pretty face in the industry.

Graham confessed to the People that the urge to write the script came after she broke up with someone. She purposely made her writing funny to help her get over the relationship, and incorporated some of her own, as well as her friends’, life experiences in the story. Although, it’s worth noting that they were exaggerated for comedic value.

But beyond the humor of the film and the catharsis it gave her post-breakup, Graham admitted in an interview with Digital Spy that she wrote the film as a way to address sexism in Hollywood. The actress explained, “It’s hard – you want to make a movie about how some of the entertainment industry is sexist, and then you’re like, ‘Why doesn’t everyone want to make this movie?’”

In another interview, Graham mentioned the reason why she pushed to turn her script into a full-fledged movie. She realized that instead of waiting for the dream role to come to her, she would just create that dream role herself. While she was quick to say that she’s thankful for her projects throughout her career, she wished there were more movies made that told things from a feminine point-of-view. The thespian commented that Hollywood’s tendency is to present things from the male perspective. She actually stated in several interviews in the past that her reason for taking on raunchy roles was to help open discussions on female sexuality.

In fact, her character in the film is a tongue-and-cheek parody of what she experienced in her career. She relayed that Honey works for a man who told her that the content she produced will never get picked up because it was written from a woman’s perspective. And the only way to have her story made was if she instead told things from a man’s point-of-view.

The release date of Half Magic is yet to be announced.

Happy Birthday: Molly Shannon

mollyshannon.jpgMolly Shannon

Born: September 16, 1964 in Shaker Heights, Ohio, USA

Married to: Fritz Chestnut (29 May 2004 – present) (2 children)

I feel great about it. I did six full years, and I loved it. I just felt like it was time. Not everything is going to be a perfect decision. Sometimes you hit, sometimes you miss, and that’s the way it goes – about leaving Saturday Night Live (1975) to pursue a film career.

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