In recent years, many of the things we thought we knew about the great American poet Emily Dickinson have been upended by a series of new biographies – and even by forensic testing of her letters and manuscripts. This new film by Madeleine Olnek (THE FOXY MERKINS) uses humor – some of it quite biting – to point to the glaring differences between Dickinson’s life and the rather pathological official biography that has entered into the popular imagination through patriarchally inflected scholarship.
At the heart of all the humor here – and the ensemble cast led by Molly Shannon is often hysterical – this is a film about a great queer woman artist whose work was too meritorious to exclude from the canon, but whose personal life was considered unacceptable, so the myth of the spinster recluse has been foisted onto schoolchildren ever since.
This is not just a story of past injustices either – as we watch the brilliant Dickinson being excluded again and again by the literary gatekeepers of her day – we can’t help but be reminded how this very process has played out again and again for centuries.
In addition to Molly Shannon, the film stars Susan Ziegler as Dickinson’s lifelong love and Amy Seimetz as the poet’s self-promoting “discoverer.” (Lars Nilsen, AFS Lead Programmer)
“The film, for all its archness and theatricality, is essentially a warm and welcome love story of two people, navigating a world that really doesn’t know what to do with them. It’s new. It’s old. It’s the same old tale of love versus oppression, but through the wonderful performances and the gloriously erudite script, WILD NIGHTS hums along in the manner of the best of Dickinson’s work. This film is alive.” – Josh Kupecki, Austin Chronicle
“WILD NIGHTS WITH EMILY may be Madeleine Olnek’s most political film to date, one that could forever change the narrative of the world’s most famous woman poet.” – Jude Dry, Indiewire
“This is an irreverent film, but its lightness is meaningful. With each silly flourish, Olnek offers joy and companionship to a figure whose history was more conveniently presented to generations of readers as solitary.” – Teo Bugbee, New York Times