Shirley ★★★½

Josephine Decker follows up the utter masterpiece that is 2018’s Madeline’s Madeline, with Shirley; a film no where near as bold or abstract, and a film that’s disappointingly straightforward.

Throughout the film, Decker feels quite constrained by Sarah Gubbins’ screenplay, thus preventing her from delving deep into the conscience of her lead as Madeline’s Madeline did so perfectly. I know it’s unfair to compare the two films, but when you watch such a strong feature from an artist so intact with their capabilities, and then seeing their follow-up, where all of that is thrown away in service of a more rudimentary narrative is quite disappointing. However, this is not a bad film by any means. Decker once again shows how she can command a helluva performance from each and every member of her cast—Odessa Young being the MAJOR standout here. And as per usual, Sturla Brandth Grøvlen’s lucid cinematography will leave you in awe. But ultimately, I just hoped to see Decker go balls-to-the-wall in portraying Shirley Jackson’s severe agoraphobia; instead, we got a more undemanding film that’s still better than most biopics we get today (even if this isn’t necessarily a “biopic”). It’s a solid film, just expected more from it!

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