Review: Wild Nights With Emily

Review: Wild Nights With Emily

By Laura Leger

My entire life I have been fed information – what I now know has been a lie – that Emily Dickinson was a stoic shut-in obsessed with death and all things depressing.

I never knew I needed a movie with Molly Shannon as a super gay Emily Dickinson living her best, secret gay life until I saw Wild Nights with Emily. Holy cannoli! You know how sometimes you learn a new fact about history that you didn’t know before and you feel lied to your entire life? Well, that’s how this movie made me feel, and I couldn’t be any happier to learn that I was so wrong for so long.

Wild Nights with Emily is a mostly light-hearted comedy written and directed by Madeleine Olnek and starring Molly Shannon as Emily Dickinson. My entire life I have been fed information – what I now know has been a lie – that Emily Dickinson was a stoic shut-in obsessed with death and all things depressing. It turns out that she lived quite the entertaining life.

The story uses comedy to depict much of Emily’s life and her relationship with her secret partner (also her sister-in-law) Sue (Susan Ziegler). The two would write letters to each other several times a day, every day, while also being neighbors. Many of Emily’s poems were edited by Sue, and the movie intertwines some of Emily’s poetry that allows the audience to see it in a new light, given the context of her queer relationship.

We also get to see Emily’s journey to publishing her poetry, which had been mostly unsuccessful during her lifetime. Emily wrote over 2,000 poems during her lifetime, and it wasn’t until after her death that they were finally published, though with some “edits,” as the movie shows us.

Shannon portrays Emily in a way I never thought imaginable, and I really enjoyed her chemistry with Ziegler. The duo was passionate and played off of each other well with great comedic timing. Jackie Monahan had a few hilarious scene-stealing moments with her character as Emily’s sister, Lavina.

Despite the film’s comedic nature, there were some serious moments that really help the audience emotionally connect with the characters. It was a beautiful movie, regardless of its low production costs. If I had to make one critique, it would be that some moments with Emily’s poetry were a little misplaced. That caused some scenes to come off a little jarring. The pros outweighed the cons however, and I appreciated the comedic depiction of Emily’s life story and the “wild” truth of her lived experience.

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