Shirley (2020)

Shirley
Director: Josephine Decker
Writer: Sarah Gubbins
Based on: Susan Scarf Merrell‘s novel
Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Odessa Young, Michael Stuhlbarg, Logan Lerman
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 23.10.2020

Plot:
Fred (Logan Lerman) and Rose (Odessa Young) were recently married and are excited to embark on a new step in their life: Fred got a dissertation spot with Stanley Hyman (Michael Stuhlbarg) and Rose could enrol at his university, too. Rose is also excited to meet Hyman’s wife, the famous writer Shirley Jackson (Elisabeth Moss). But things come very different than expected. Shirley is abrasive and the few days that Fred and Rose were invited to stay at their home until they get settled in their own turn longer and longer, with Rose picking up more and more of the domestic duties. Her presence seems to help Shirley focus on her work at least, and the two women become closer.

Shirley is a film made of ambivalences – ambivalent characters make very ambivalent choices in a blend of fact and fiction that is also pretty ambivalent. That makes it rather challenging, but I thought it was more than worth it.

The film poster showing Shirley Jackson (Elisabeth Moss) sitting at a desk in the middle of the woods.
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The Invisible Man (2020)

The Invisible Man
Director: Leigh Whannell
Writer: Leigh Whannell
Based on: H. G. Wellsnovel
Cast: Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Harriet Dyer, Michael Dorman
Seen on: 5.3.2020

Content Note: domestic violence, psychological abuse, stalking

Plot:
Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) finally manages to leave her abusive partner Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) in the middle of the night with the help of her sister Emily (Harriet Dyer). Now she’s staying with her friend James (Aldis Hodge) and his daughter Sydney (Storm Reid), but she’s still terrified that Adrian will find her. That’s when the news reaches her that Adrian killed himself and left her some money. Relieved at first, Cecilia soon notices strange things going on around her and is certain that Adrian is back in her life even if she can’t see him.

The Invisible Man is a really strong film that effectively uses its central and by now much-explored idea to make something completely new of it. I was very impressed and creeped out.

The film poster showing Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss) looking at something behind her where there is only darkness.
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Us (2019)

Us
Director: Jordan Peele
Writer: Jordan Peele
Cast. Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Shahadi Wright Joseph, Evan Alex, Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Anna Diop, Cali Sheldon, Noelle Sheldon
Seen on: 26.3.2019
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Plot:
The Wilson family – Adelaide (Lupita Nyong’o), Gabe (Winston Duke) and their children Zora (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason (Evan Alex) – are heading to a beach house for their vacation. There they meet their friends, the Tyler family (Elisabeth Moss, Tim Heidecker, Cali Sheldon, Noelle Sheldon). But instead of spending a relaxing time, Adelaide is reminded of the time she got lost at an amusement park when she was a child, when Jason wanders off himself. And then at night, when things seem to have calmed down a little, The Wilson family finds themselves facing another family that looks just like them, but isn’t in the slightest – and they have come to take their place.

Us really is a fantastic film. Both honestly scary and funny, it uses its talented cast to its full advantages and is definitely a worthy follow-up to Get Out for Peele.

The film poster showing Adelaid/Red (Lupita Nyong'o) with horrified eyes, tears streaking down her face, holding a mask of her own smiling face.
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High-Rise (2015)

High-Rise
Director: Ben Wheatley
Writer: Amy Jump
Based on: J.G. Ballard‘s novel
Cast: Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, Elisabeth Moss, James Purefoy, Keeley Hawes, Peter FerdinandoAugustus Prew
Seen on: 18.7.2016

Plot:
Laing (Tom Hiddleston) just moved to the 25th floor of a new apartment building. That building is equipped with pretty much everything and follows a very hierarchical structure. Soon Laing meets his neighbors. The alluring Charlotte (Sienna Miller) lives on the floor above him, documentary film maker Richard Wilder (Luke Evans) on the lower floors, together with his family. At the very top there is the architect and owner of the entire building, Royal (Jeremy Irons). Laing hopes to rise through the ranks and thus up the floors, but unrest starts brewing in the building more and more.

High-Rise is very stylish in many ways and definitely an interesting film, but it didn’t quite blow me away. Still there’s a whole lot going on that’s worth looking at.

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Truth (2015)

Truth
Director: James Vanderbilt
Writer: James Vanderbilt
Based on: Mary Mapes‘ book Truth and Duty: The Press, the President, and the Privilege of Power
Cast: Cate Blanchett, Robert Redford, Topher Grace, Dennis Quaid, Elisabeth Moss, Bruce Greenwood, Stacy Keach, John Benjamin Hickey, David Lyons, Dermot Mulroney, Rachael Blake, Andrew McFarlane
Seen on: 9.6.2016

Plot:
Mary Mapes (Cate Blanchett) is a producer on CBS’ 60 Minutes, hosted by Dan Rather (Robert Redford). They get wind of a story that George Bush Jr may have received favorable treatment in the army which kept him out of harm’s way and could considerably hurt his run for the presidency. They investigate and despite a few incongruencies decide to go ahead and report on the story. It doesn’t take long, though, for serious doubts to arise as to the veracity of the story and the supporting documents. Quickly, Mary finds herself under heavy fire.

Truth is a decent film carried by Blanchett, but it fundamentally misunderstands the quest it is on, which does throw a wrench in its own works.

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On the Road (2012)

On the Road
Director: Walter Salles
Writer: Jose Rivera
Based on: Jack Kerouac’s novel
Cast: Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Stewart, Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen, Amy Adams, Elisabeth Moss, Terrence Howard, Alice Braga, Tom Sturridge, Steve Buscemi

Plot:
After his father’s death, Sal (Sam Riley) decides to go on a road trip to visit his new friend Dean (Garrett Hedlund) and his girlfriend Marylou (Kristen Stewart). Together they hook up with some old friends in around the USA. Sal is fascinated with Dean’s energy and joie de vivre. For a while, Sal travels alone, then he travels together with Dean and other people, always looking for the next party and the next kick.

After the book, I wasn’t too enthusiastic about watching the film but I thought that with the lengths the book had, the shortenings necessary for a movie script might improve the whole thing. But if anything the movie was even more boring.

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