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Laramie Movie Scope: Eileen

A trip from kinda strange to wacko

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 8, 2023 – An uncomfortable character study turns into a grotesque psychological drama in this story about a couple of lonely, unhappy women who form a combustible relationship.

The story is set in Massachusetts in the 1960s, where the pressure of conformity to repressive social norms seems more like the 1950s. It is about hidden sexual forces erupting into violence.

As the movie opens, we find the sexually frustrated Eileen Dunlop (played by Thomasin McKenzie of “JoJo Rabbit”) alone in a car at lover's lane, getting overheated and having to cool her private parts in some yellow snow.

Eileen works at a juvenile detention facility and has fantasies of sex with the guards and inmates. At home, she cooks and cleans for her father, Jim (played by Shea Whigham of “The Gray Man”). He is a drunk ex-cop with a tendency to brandish his gun at neighbors who annoy him. He spends his days feeling sorry for himself, drinking and belittling Eileen. Eileen dreams of killing him.

Eileen's life changes dramatically when a new woman, a Harvard-trained psychologist, Rebecca (Anne Hathaway of “Rachel Getting Married”) is hired at the juvenile detention facility where Eileen works. The two strike up an immediate friendship that seems to be headed toward a lesbian affair.

Eileen is very excited about this new friendship, while the more experienced and sophisticated Rebecca is able to conceal her emotions better. Her motives are unclear. Rebecca and Eileen are both interested in one of the boys in custody, Lee Polk (Sam Nivola of “White Noise”) who murdered his father.

Rebecca discovers that the motive for the murder was that Lee had been sexually molested by his father for many years. Eileen is sexually attracted to Lee, while Rebecca seems to be more interested in finding proof of Lee's story of sexual abuse, presumably to help Lee's court case.

Rebecca's determination to prove Lee's story, and Eileen's devotion to Rebecca explodes into to a dramatic and tragic confrontation between three women, Rebecca, Eileen and Lee's mother, Rita (Marin Ireland of “Hell or High Water).” This high drama at first seems to come out of nowhere, but upon reflection, the underlying emotional pressures had been building to this point throughout the film.

The first part of the movie is a slow-moving, uncomfortable character study of Eileen and her father. Their highly dysfunctional relationship is hard to watch. The story picks up steam with the relationship between Rebecca and Eileen, and it really explodes in their confrontation with Rita Polk.

The story is based on a 2015 novel of the same name, written by Ottessa Moshfegh, but the movie differs from the book in some important ways. The screenplay was written by the husband and wife team of Luke Goebel (“Causeway”) and Ottessa Moshfegh. It is directed by William Oldroyd (“Lady Macbeth”). The acting performances by Hathaway, Thomasin McKenzie, Marin Ireland and Shea Whigham are superb. This movie rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff (no extra charges apply). I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2023 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at dalek three zero one nine at gmail dot com [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]