Wild Nights with Emily

Director: Madeleine Olnek
2018 | USA | 84m
GENRE: Arts & Literature | Biography/History | Comedy | Drama | Lesbian | Romance
SECTION: Centerpiece | US Feature
Expected Guests: Director, Madeleine Olnek, Actors, Jackie Monahan & Susan Ziegler

With sly wit, the always wonderful Molly Shannon embodies poet Emily Dickinson, portraying her as a driven writer, a target of obsessive envy, an ardent lover, and a woman who suffered no fools. This tart and hilarious account of creative passion and longing, from acclaimed Frameline alum Madeleine Olnek (The Foxy Merkins, Frameline38; Codependent Lesbian Space Alien Seeks Same, Frameline35), tells only the truth but tells it with an ingeniously subversive slant.

Unreliable narrator Mabel Todd (Amy Seimetz, Stranger Things, Pit Stop) misrepresents Emily Dickinson as an unrequited spinster and shut-in. Meanwhile, her true vibrant nature, known best by Emily’s lifelong lover and sister-in-law Susan (Olnek regular Susan Ziegler), shines through. Throughout this gleefully anachronistic biopic, Olnek joyfully tromps on the manufactured images of Dickinson as a tragic virgin recluse with an overactive imagination. This Dickinson is intrinsically connected with her family and community but has the discipline to put her creative solitude and writing first. Yet she is never truly alone in her work. Her muse, first reader, and champion remains Susan, a no-nonsense partner-in-crime who keeps the poet safe from the overbearing critiques of male publishers.

In one of her funniest and most thoughtful performances to date, Shannon captures the frustration and unfailing drive of a poet breaking convention, and a woman in firm control of her own craft. With this film, Olnek solidifies her status as one of the freshest voices in queer comedy, fashioning a deliriously absurd take on a creative genius and the many men and women who tried—and continuously failed—to bring her down.


On June 21 at the Roxie Theater, catch A Conversation and Class with Writer/Director Madeleine Olnek, exploring her career and accompanied by a curated selection of scenes from her films, segueing into lessons on working with actors and writing dramatic action.

Showtime Networks Inc.

Bay Area Book Festival / California Film Institute

  • Premiere Status: Bay Area