November 27, 2023

GENRE | Thomasin McKenzie and Anne Hathaway Seduce 'Eileen'

"People are so ashamed of their desires."
Thomasin McKenzie Anne Hathaway William Oldroyd | Eileen
Neon / Elevation Pictures
Described as "Carol meets Reservoir Dogs" by author Ottessa Moshfegh, Lady Macbeth director William Oldroyd adapts Moshfegh's debut 2015 novel Eileen into a wintry 1960s New England psychological film noir set during Christmas. Starring Thomasin McKenzie as the eponymous prison secretary, her character becomes captivated by a glamorous new coworker (Anne Hathaway) who draws her into a potentially dangerous relationship.

McKenzie and Hathaway display an interesting chemistry of contrasting personalities, with the latter putting on her over-the-top capital "A" acting movie star affectation. Her confident platinum blonde bombshell Rebecca brings Eileen out of her rather meek and mousy shell after a night of drinking, dancing, and an innocent kiss goodbye.

As Eileen's lousy drunk widow of an ex-cop father, Shea Whigham hams it up to express more about her home life and tragic backstory before the film takes a dramatic turn when Rebecca reveals more of her erratic motives. Scripted by Moshfegh herself alongside her writer husband, Luke Goebel, the spare screenplay's misdirection leaves plenty of room for the two lead performances to take over the pulsing film's eerie tone.

Eileen's alluring small-scale, female-driven psychodrama of two women at opposite ends finding attraction in one another's flaws hints at a greater dissatisfaction with mid-century womanhood. Its dark period piece of an almost romance haunts the drab, coldly methodic setting of a boys' prison and generic office in suburban Massachusetts.

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