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"Eileen" Review

 Two days into the new year and we may already have our Worst Movie of 2024 winner identified with 364 days still to go. Take a bow, Eileen! You're terrible!

Thomasin McKenzie (Jojo Rabbit) stars as the titular Eileen, a 24-year-old woman who lives with her widowed alcoholic former police chief father, Jim (Shea Whigham, recently seen being Tom Cruise's frustrated pursuer in the latest Mission: Impossible), and works in a boys prison in a small Massachusetts town in the 1960s. Eileen is the type of girl who watches a couple making out in broad daylight in a car from her car and then grabs a handful of dirty snow to stuff down her skirt to chill her nethers. Then she fantasizes about acting out the Divinyls big hit song at work while looking at one of the guards. Swell gal.

Into her humdrum world comes the new prison psychologist, Rebecca (Anne Hathaway aka Yummy Girl!), who we know is a change agent because she drives a red Thunderbird in a lot of neutral colored sedans, wears matching red leather gloves and has glamorous bleached blonde hair, literally standing out from the locals. She pays attention to Eileen and encourages her and Eileen begins to change in response.

Now you're probably thinking that this is leading to some sort of lesbian relationship and for the first hour the plot wades through molasses with hints and teases, but nothing particularly titillating. Then on Christmas Eve Rebecca invites Eileen over for drinks. She gets dressed up and goes over, but something seems off about things. Then Rebecca drops a bombshell which sends the story off on a bonkers tangent which actually got me interested in where this was going...before getting just stupid, unbelievable, then annoying as it ends on inconclusive notes which sent me looking up the source novel's synopsis.

The missus's immediate reaction was, "How did this get made? Why did this get made?!?" I knew almost nothing going in, but was leery of the spread between the 85% Rotten Tomatoes critics score vs a 57% audience score which is why people disregard critics, but that over half of the public thought this was good explains a lot of why our representative democracy is collapsing because if you think Eileen is good then you shouldn't be voting for anything more important than American Idol.

 Director William Oldroyd (Lady Macbeth) working from a script co-written by the novel's author, Ottessa Moshfegh, manages to make everything feel somnambulant with the 98-minute runtime feel much longer with little story or character to fill it. 

The cast has dense Bawstan accents bordering on parody with the usually good Hathaway - who was one of the few bright spots in either of Christopher Nolan's awful The Dark Knight Reloaded Rises and Interstellar (where she somehow managed to make the ludicrous speech about how love is the 5th dimension not become the funnest moment of 2014) - sporting a persona on top of it suggesting she'd been given a note to play Rebecca as 1940s Lauren Bacall. From Bawstan.

 McKenzie does a bit better, but as written she's such a cypher that it's hard to tell whether she's got issues or what's going on with her fantasies of suicide and murder. She's good at dreamer characters like she played in Last Night in Soho, but there's little substance to chew on here.

 All we wanted from Eileen was some soapy melodrama or some slap and tickle, but instead we got a maddeningly incomplete tale which could've risen a bit if it'd simply attempted to bite on the rich list of optional themes and plots. Gone all-in on something. A Simple Favor is a marvelously trashy movie that succeeds in its modern noir sensibility because it floors it where Eileen parks and suffocates on its own self-regard.

Score: 2/10. Skip it.


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