‘Eileen’ Sundance Film Review: This Is What Happens When Female Loneliness And Rage Collide – Deadline

By Valerie Complex
Associate Editor/Film Writer
**I don’t usually do this but: SPOILERS AHEAD **
Eileen, directed by William Oldroyd, was written by Ottessa Moshfegh and Luke Goebel, based on Moshfegh’s book of the same name. The film, which screened in the Premieres section of the Sundance Film Festival, stars Thomasin Mackenzie, Anne Hathaway and Shea Whigham.
The film starts with Eileen (Mackenzie) sitting in her car on a beach, watching a couple make out. Her arousal peaks as a voyeur, and stuffs snow down her pants to cool down so to speak. The 24 year old is the loner type who works as a prison receptionist. She has her eyes on one of the prison guards, and during her downtime at work her imagination runs wild with the possibilities of a hook-up with him.  

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Her mother is dead and now she lives with her father (Whigham), who is a retired cop and raging alcoholic. When Eileen comes home from work one day, she sees the police trying to calm him while he’s drunk and waving a gun around in the middle of the street. She promptly deescalates the situation and instead of thanking her for preventing him from getting arrested, he insults her. His disdain for his own child is obvious and he scolds her being a deadbeat.
The film is based on the book of the same name by Moshfegh, and believe it or not, the film’s narrative fills in some of the gaps in her book. There’s also a lot of dialogue cues in the script that foreshadow what’s coming. We know Eileen is going to reach the breaking point — the audience is just waiting for who or what will be the catalyst, but also, the wait is what makes the overall atmosphere so unsettling.
The film is based on the book of the same name by Moshfegh, and believe it or not, the film’s narrative fills in some of the gaps in her book. There’s also a lot of dialogue cues in the script that foreshadow what’s coming. We know Eileen is going to reach the breaking point — the audience is just waiting for who or what will be the catalyst. The wait is what makes the film an unsettling noir, and trust me it’s worth the wait.  
The two lead performances from Mackenzie and Hathaway just ooze sex appeal and dominance in their performances; Mackenzie’s ability to switch between the mousy and maniacal is masterful, and when Eileen finally stands in her power, it’s beguiling. Hathaway smoulders as Dr. Rebecca. Her character is so flirtatious, cool and confident that sometimes I started to blush. The actress’ gaze cuts right through you, and that’s the type of talent that comes with being relaxed and having so much damn fun in a role like Dr. Rebecca St. John that is tailor made just for her.

Eileen leans into pulp and camp sphere, but does not go far enough with the queerness. As a young woman searching for connection, Eileen was looking for someone, anyone to give her attention and Rebecca was it. With all that buildup, and all that pulp, why not dive further into the queer narrative? I don’t know how to describe how this film is simultaneously queer while slightly queer-baiting its audience; I am beyond tired of seeing this trope in LGBTQ content. Moshfegh and Goebel are forgiven however because this script is a balanced mix of the hysterical and the macabre, all while maintaining the female gaze. 
At the conclusion of the film, I had this theory about how Dr. Rebecca isn’t real and was a figment of Eileen’s wild imagination. And when she leaves her dad and the town behind for good, is she on her way as-is, or is Rebecca a stylized version of who she wants to become? This ambiguity serves the movie quite well. 
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