On Screen: “Eileen”


Anne Hathaway demonstrates remarkable versatility in “Eileen,” a low-budget psychological thriller about a woman who works in a Massachusetts juvenile detention facility for boys in the 1960s.

Lonely, bitter, often bullied 24 year-old Eileen Dunlop (Thomasin McKenzie) lives with her often drunk, domineering, widowed father (Shea Whigham), who used to be the town’s chief of police. She’s a clerical worker at the detention center and frequently indulges in sexual fantasies that involve a hunky security guard and moving to New York City.

Then, one wintry day, a new psychologist is added to the prison staff: beautiful, platinum blonde Rebecca St. John (Hathaway), a confident Harvard graduate.

Transfixed by Rebecca’s tawdry, seductive ‘film noir’ glamour, Eileen is thrilled when Rebecca befriends her — since they seem to share a mutual interest in a mysterious young inmate, Lee Polk, who apparently killed his father.

Exuding infatuation, obsession and repressed desire, the unconventional relationship between the two women quickly deepens, leading to some intriguing criminality.

Directed by William Oldroyd from a cryptic, pulpy screenplay by Luke Goebel and his wife Ottesam Moshfeh, based on Moshfeh’s debut 2015 novel, it’s most notable for its jarring, far-fetched, third-act almost-Hitchcockian twist, leading to an unexpected conclusion which — on second viewing — may have been subtly foreshadowed.

Although it looks like grainy film stock — because of the tight budget — cinematographer Ari Wegner used ARRI ALEXA digital cameras with a special Angenieux 25-250 HR zoom lens.

Do you recognize young Thomasin McKenzie from “The Power of the Dog?” This — now-grown — New Zealand actress adroitly captures Eileen’s naïve, multi-layered vulnerability, while Anne Hathaway projects Rebecca’s sophisticated self-importance.

And automotive buffs may spot a ‘goof’ when Eileen explains to a coworker that her “cat in her car” is damaged, causing smoke — referring to her catalytic converter. Oops! The film is set in the 1960s and catalytic converters weren’t routinely installed until 1975.

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “Eileen” is a sinister 6, streaming on Prime Video, Apple TV and Vudu.


Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures. Her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M.

As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O’Brien, and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism.

During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie and drama critic, syndicating her reviews and articles around the world, including Video Librarian. She has appeared on American Movie Classics and Turner Classic Movies. In 2017, her book 150 Timeless Movies was published by Hannacroix Creek Books. Her website is www.susangranger.com.

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