Diane fills her days helping others and desperately attempting to bond with her drug-addicted son. As these pieces of her existence begin to fade, she finds herself confronting memories she'd sooner forget than face.
After watching this irreverent yet sincere tribute to poet Emily Dickinson, I had the urge to revisit Julie Harris in "The Belle of Amherst". Call me Old School, but I vastly prefer serious filmmaking to the facetiousness of this feature-length SNL sketch approach.
Certainly SNL alumna Molly Shannon as Emily and Susan Ziegler as her sister-in-law, who share the love that dare not say its name in this version of the Dickinsons story give amusing and often moving performances, but the film has no consistent style or tone, and the male characters are predictably straw men mocked for the self-centered Male Superiority attitudes. Even the movie's unreliable narrator, Mabel (Emily's posthumous editor), well-played by Amy Seimetz, is written with such a heavy hand by filmmaker Madeleine Olnek as to lose substance.
Set in 3 different time frames: 1860 for the main story, 1840 for the young Emily and Susan played by disconcertingly lovely actresses Dana Melanie and Sasha Frolova, and Mabel's current era after Emily's death, wherein she pontificates to packed audiences inflating her role in championing Dickinson's career, the movie unfolds in disconnected scenes, many of which might easily have been dropped for sheer dullness, and a couple of which (surreal in nature) clash with the matter-of-fact overall style. Unlike the usual exaggerated beauty of period movies, typified by everything from Merchant-Ivory classics to Kubrick's "Barry Lyndon", Olnek presents the show as if in a low-budget amateur dress-up production representing 2019.
Use of poetry on screen in subtitles as it is recited (and sometimes by itself) recalls Jim Jarmusch's recent use of same in "Paterson", a techinque I found artificial and forced, just as it seems here too.
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