Eileen (2023) Hits All the Right Buttons A

Based on the 2015 novel by Ottessa Moshfegh and adapted by Moshfegh and her husband Luke Goebel, “Eileen” hits all the right buttons. The direction by William Oldroyd (“Lady Macbeth”) is sleek and efficient without being showy, and the performances of Thomasin McKenzie (Eileen), Anne Hathaway (Rebecca), and Marin Ireland (Rita Polk) are spectacularly good. Set in Massachusetts during the early 1960s, Eileen works at a correctional facility for teenage boys. She keeps to herself and fantasizes about one of the guards (Owen Teague). At home, she lives with her widowed and alcoholic father, Jim (Shea Whigham), a former chief of police who suffers from paranoia and is emotionally abusive towards her. Eileen frequently daydreams about killing herself and her father. A new psychologist, Rebecca, joins the prison staff. Eileen is immediately drawn to Rebecca’s intellectual conversation – she is a graduate of Harvard, not Radcliffe – and glamorous appearance. She is in love.


After Rebecca begins working with an inmate, Lee Polk (Sam Nivola), who is imprisoned for stabbing his father to death, she gets the feeling that Lee’s mother, Rita, was complicit in the father’s sexual abuse of their son. On Christmas Eve, Eileen receives a call from Rebecca inviting her to her house for drinks. Eileen, like many a disillusioned gay character before her, thinks that this is Rebecca’s way of initiating a relationship. However, when Eileen arrives, a panicked Rebecca reveals that they are actually in the Polks’ house and that on further questioning of Mrs. Polk, the conversation became heated and, following a scuffle during which they fell into the basement, Rebecca tied Rita up and drugged her. She now plans to coerce Rita into admitting involvement in her son’s abuse, with Eileen as a witness. Eileen reluctantly agrees to help, getting her father’s gun from her car.


The questioning of Rita by Rebecca and Eileen is the film’s focal point, a breathtaking few minutes in which Oldroyd pulls out all the stops, and the three actresses complement one another so perfectly that we end up savoring 2023’s best scene. For a while, we seem to be dealing with a page taken from Henri-Georges Clouzot’s “Les Diaboliques.” However, a few minutes later, the landscape is transformed into the loneliness of Henry James’ “Washington Square” and William Wyler’s “The Heiress”.


65 Queer Films Made Under the Hays Code (1934-1967) Part One. – TheBrownees

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