The surprises in William Oldrod’s feature-length adaptation of the fascinating book by Ottessa Moshfegh won’t be particularly noticeable to a reader who has already read it. But even as Eileen moves forward with a stoic determination towards its unexpected twist, the reward disappoints.
The Hitchcockian Foreboding: Meet Eileen, played by Thomasin McKenzie
The Sundance Film Festival debut of Eileen introduces its 24-year-old lead character, Thomasin McKenzie, who sees a couple making out in their car. The title typeface immediately sets off for a Hitchcockian foreboding.
Even though she has to return to her boring tasks in the juvenile prison, she can’t help but search for more. Shea Wigham, who receives little screen time, plays his crude, alcoholic father, a former police officer who now occasionally displays his gun around the neighborhood.
With the arrival of Rebecca, played seductively by Anne Hathaway (Hitchcock references are always nice, even if they are so overt), there is, of course, an inevitable change.
She is a blond with some original ideas who starts working at the prison and clicks with Eileen right away. She starts washing more frequently and donning more attractive attire. Eileen makes an effort to develop its subtext for a twist in the second half of the movie, but Oldroyd never truly captures the depth of the protagonist as a foundation for that twisted dimension.
Eileen is shown in the book by Moshfegh as having severe body image problems and a history of self-hatred; her wild dreams serve as her sole form of escape.
A quote from the book serves as a case in point: “That night I lay on my cot and poked at my tummy, counted my ribs, and pressed at my gut with gloved fingers.” That cot was frail, and the attic was chilly.
The Connection with Rebecca: A Reminiscence of “Carol”
She and Rebecca’s connection barely grows, and it’s impossible to avoid analogies to Todd Haynes’ Carol. The situation then worsens after arriving with such carefully crafted energy. Marin Ireland steals the show in Eileen despite McKenzie and Hathaway’s equal and strong performances. Her jarring speech in the third act is so expertly staged that her story struggles to take center stage.
Eileen’s dizzy ambitions never quite match its appealing lead character, who is at once frustratingly impatient and beautifully fascinating.