Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Advertise in our classifieds section
Your classified listing could be here!
October 4, 2022

New Ottessa Moshfegh film adaptation, ‘Eileen,’ serves Hitchockian thriller, beautiful cinematography

Courtesy of NEON

In a bare 1960s Boston suburb, not much grows but obsession for Eileen Dunlop, the main character of “Eileen,” the new thriller based on Ottessa Moshfegh’s award-winning book of the same name. Starring Thomasin McKenzie in the titular role and Anne Hathaway as psychologist Rebecca, “Eileen” serves a concise and troubling story of a young woman’s struggle to overcome the suffocation and suppression of the suburbs. 

A sullen yet unassuming young woman, Eileen’s (McKenzie) days blend into each other until one day, the prison’s new psychologist, Rebecca (Hathaway), appears, promising some mystique and excitement. Eileen’s obsession with Rebecca blooms and compounds, slowly unveiling the bloody lengths the girl will go to capture her attention. 

The film, co-written by Luke Goebel and Moshfegh herself, serves as a fitting adaptation of the author’s work, which gained infamy online and cultivated the author’s primarily young, female fanbase. 

“Eileen,” like Moshefgh’s other novels, centers on a troubled young woman also visited in her incredibly popular novel “My Year of Rest and Relaxation.” Online, Moshfegh’s books take a life of their own. Millions of young social media users have taken to posting quotes of the novel with annotations that read “so me” next to scenes displaying concerning behavior, set to Lana Del Rey or Mitski songs and sandwiched between pictures of lipstick-stained Marlboro Reds. When it was announced that Oldroyd, the director of 2016’s Lady Macbeth, would lead the film, Moshefgh fans rejoiced, hopeful the director’s past film indicated an understanding of the novel similar to their fan casts and ideas. 

In a press conference for “Eileen,” Moshfegh spoke to The Texan about the online culture her work cultivated.  

“The positive is that I’m so honored that the younger generation of readers is finding my work valuable enough to talk about it over the internet,” Moshfegh said. “I’ve met a lot of young readers who have come up to me and shared their reading experiences and talked about how it connected them to a community of like-minded readers, so that’s wonderful.”

However, Moshfegh also expressed concern about romanticizing her novels about characters struggling with mental illness. 

“In regards to the aesthetics assigned to my work and whether or not it resonates, to a certain extent you have to let people do with it what you will,” Moshfegh said. “But sometimes I worry about young people who identify with being mentally unwell and the glamor that is associated with that. Especially in my book ‘My Year of Rest and Relaxation,’ I want to say that being sad isn’t great. If you can help it, try to be healthy, don’t (indulge in unhealthy coping mechanisms).”

Almost Hitchcockian at several points, the film presents brilliant cinematography and amazing performances from both McKenzie and Hathaway. The movie coats its characters in cool tones that become warm the second Rebecca enters, with purposeful shots utilizing mirrors and shadows to unsettle and provoke audiences, a great example of the strength of visual storytelling. 

Hathaway’s ability to shine in any role stood out in this movie as she captured Rebecca’s glamor and later on, neuroses, perfectly. McKenzie also delivered a captivating performance. However, moments of dialogue were plagued by accent confusion, with New Zealander McKenzie slipping into an English accent while attempting a Boston one. While not a major problem throughout the movie, the shift sometimes felt jarring, taking audiences out of the film. 

The first screenplay from Moshefgh and Goebel, with brilliant directorial choices from Oldroyd, makes “Eileen” a compelling winter watch. The film premieres on Netflix and in theaters Dec. 1.

3 mysterious car crashes out of 5

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Trisha Dasgupta, Senior Life & Arts Reporter
Dasgupta is a journalism freshman from Frisco, Texas. She currently works as a senior reporter for the Life and Arts department and has previously covered news for The Texan. When she's not writing articles you can find her listening to Taylor Swift, Bruce Springsteen, or Billy Joel.