Wild Nights with Emily didn’t “click” with me but, then again, I feel like I’m “missing” something.
The film looks and sounds like an episode of Comedy Central’s Drunk History, a cult television show that involves familiar comedians reciting historical events after a few drinks while celebrities reenact the story exactly as it’s being told. On the show it’s a hoot, but in a movie directed by The Foxy Merkins’ Madeline Olnek, a filmmaker who approaches the material with the intentions to make a faithful period piece, it doesn’t mesh well. Some viewers believe the quirks compliment the movie’s tongue-in-cheek nature but, this style never seems intentional. This is an indie struggling with production constraints and, for me, it shows.
There are comedic tones in Olnek’s script about a secret romance between poet Emily Dickinson (Molly Shannon) and her lifelong friend (Susan Ziegler) that was hidden by a selfish editor (Amy Seimetz). In a situational film that balances veiled themes of greed and forbidden love, humour is a wonderful tool to break up tension or to call out a character’s desperate decisions. The leading actors get their moments to shine but, unlike other playful period pieces like Whit Stillman’s Love & Friendship or Yorgos Lanthimos’ Oscar-winning The Favourite, the comedy in Wild Nights with Emily is too fuzzy to give the production legitimate praise.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie