This week in Film — SHIRLEY and Writers on Screen

Though it doesn’t open for another week (June 5 to be precise), Shirley has stirred my mind with images of writers hunched over desks, pounding out prose one painful character at a time. A window into my personal life, perhaps? Or just a routine obsession? Hmmmmm….

First, to Shirley:

The crux of the story revolves around Shirley’s mental state as she undertakes a new project, Hangsaman, a novel about a lonely college freshman who goes missing. Though Shirley knows little more about the missing woman save for a 250-word clipping from the newspaper, she understands her completely. Ditto for Rose (Odessa Young), the young, pregnant wife of Fred (Logan Lerman); Hyman’s teaching assistant and carousing buddy.

There are echoes of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in the relationships between Shirley and Stanley and Fred and Rose — the drinking, the fighting, the frustration of growing old with little to show. But as Shirley progresses, the story takes on the atmosphere of one of Jackson’s stories.

From Boulder Weekly, Vol. 27, No. 41, “We all go a little mad sometimes.”

Now, to the good stuff:

“Writers themselves aren’t that dramatic or empathetic a subject,” screenwriter Sarah Gubbins says. “As a genus and species they are wont to be solitary, sedentary and sullen. Social mores often elude them. As a breed they are prone to paranoia, anxiety, depression and petty self-absorption. And they tend to go extended periods without bathing.”

Write what you know, the adage goes, and Gubbins’ latest film Shirley has a lived-in quality only a writer could create. The long hours spent in bed waiting for something to come, the longer hours spent hunched over the desk when it does. The fracturing of time and space, reality and fiction, as the writer disappears further and further into the words. And the inevitable slip into excessive consumption and flights of fancy.

Home viewing: Writers on screen.