Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2019-09-18
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



Wild Nights with Emily offers new takes on Dickinson myths
by Matt Simonette

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

"Emily Dickinson wished to be published posthumously," says Mabel Todd ( Amy Seimetz ), the poet's editor, at one point in the new dramatic comedy Wild Nights with Emily. "'Posthumous' refers to a soul that wishes to more glory in the recognition after death than in life. It's the heaven of the literary world."

But Wild Nights with Emily illustrates how such posthumous appreciation implicates an artist's contemporaries for erasing those elements from their life story that they could not fathom.

And in the case of Emily Dickinson—played here by Molly Shannon—that erasure was a literal one, as the references to the great love of her life, her sister-in-law Susan ( Susan Ziegler ), were indeed physically erased from her poems.

The film sets out to destroy the myth of Emily as a reclusive spinster who never wanted to be published. Set in Amherst Massachusetts, where Emily resided with her sister in a home next door to their brother Austin ( Kevin Seal ) and his wife Susan, Wild Nights with Emily presents Emily and Susan as very much in love, with an ambitious Emily trying unsuccessfully to get published, never finding favor in her lifetime with the ( usually male ) literary editors who fail to comprehend her prose.

It takes a bit to get with the film's vibe. Wild Nights with Emily juxtaposes serious themes of forbidden love and female subjugation with comedic performance styles and direction that would be at home on The Office or Arrested Development. When Emily presents Susan with a love poem, Susan reads it, guffaws and asks disbelievingly, "'Sue forever more'? Do you think that speaks to a larger audience?"

What's most incredible about the film however, is just how well that juxtaposition works. One problem with traditional biopics is that filmmakers for obvious reasons want to be truthful to a story, but must condense and omit details, often leaving behind exposition-laden dialogue. That's not the case here.

Contemporary comedies now trade more in presenting characters in awkward social situations than depicting truly witty repartee. Director and writer Madeleine Olnek does indulge that awkwardness, but she unabashedly uses anachronistic dialogue and performances to highlight what were emotional truths, getting some genuine laughs—a story about Emily and some stray cats, or how Emily arrived at the final version of "Because I Could Not Stop for Death"—along the way.

But there are many serious and graceful, even heartbreaking moments as well; indeed, most of those belong to the married Susan, who in one scene watches from her window as the not-as-socially-bound Emily trysts with a local widow. It's left to Susan, in fact, to carry out Wild Night with Emily's painful finale.

Molly Shannon is excellent as Emily. At times she's oblivious to the implications of her writing, but you know she's not oblivious to the stunted emotions and limited intellectual curiosity of most people around her, save Susan. After an editor patronizes her work for three hours straight, Emily dryly responds, "Thank you for your surgery."

Wild Nights with Emily was obviously shot on a low budget, so don't go expecting Barry Lyndon-level production design or cinematography. But Olnek truly has accomplished something special here, mining the history of one of America's greatest poets and locating within it an energy that's ultimately both funny and sad, but best of all truthful.

Wild Nights with Emily opens in Chicago April 19 at Landmark's Century Center Cinema.

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

Sisters in Cinema launches fellowship for Black women filmmakers, LBTQ stories 2019-09-21 - Sisters in a SIC ) with support from Chicago Women's Foundation LBTQ Giving Council has awarded three first-time feature filmmakers with a $2,500 ...

Gay News

Mayor Lightfoot announces final Budget Town Hall 2019-09-19 - CHICAGO — Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot today announced a fifth and final Budget Town Hall to be held Wednesday, October 2 from 6-8 ...

Gay News

Black Alphabet film fest to honor Trans Awareness Week 2019-09-19 - Black Alphabet Film Festival returns for its seventh year, showcasing films that highlight and explore the LGBTQ and same-gender-loving ( SGL ) experience—and ...

Gay News

Lightfoot introduces LGBT business resolution 2019-09-18 - On Sept. 18, Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot introduced a resolution acknowledging LGBT-owned business enterprises ( LGBTBEs ) and their contributions to Chicago's ...

Gay News

MOVIES A look at what's hitting the big screens this fall 2019-09-18 - Fall back into the movie theater after a summer that certainly had some lackluster moments, cinematically. We head into awards season and it ...

Gay News

REELING FILM FESTIVAL Wendy Jo Carlton explores life, love in 'Good Kisser' 2019-09-18 - Wendy Jo Carlton is an out director, producer and teacher known for indie films like Hannah Free, starring Sharon Gless, and the lesbian ...

Gay News

REELING FILM FESTIVAL Lesbian director highlights queer history in 'The Archivettes' 2019-09-18 - Megan Rossman is an out and proud lesbian filmmaker. But while making The Archivettes, whose Chicago premiere is part of the Reeling Film ...

Gay News

Jason Stuart makes it into the middle of the Midwest 2019-09-17 - Actor Jason Stuart has over 35 years of steady work on film and television as a character actor. He came out of the ...

Gay News

Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas returns to the Auditorium Theatre 2019-09-17 - ( CHICAGO, IL ) The live concert experience of Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas returns to the Auditorium Theatre for the second ...

Gay News

REELING FILM FESTIVAL Unexpected legend takes stage in 'Broadway' 2019-09-17 - He calls women "darling" and drops f-bombs in the same sentence. He's both Jewish and gay, and has never hidden either. He keeps ...


Copyright © 2019 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.







About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.