Elisabeth Moss Loves Playing Messy Characters, but in Shirley Jackson, She Found One Like Herself

If your movie calls for a woman on the verge of — or completely in the throes of — a breakdown, Elisabeth Moss is the one for the job.

With “Shirley,” Moss continues to flex her affinity for the mad, disheveled, unraveling, and messy, as already well-documented in films including “The Invisible Man,” “Her Smell,” “Queen of Earth,” and “Us.” In Josephine Decker’s new film, Moss stars as gothic fiction writer Shirley Jackson, opposite Michael Stuhlbarg as Jackson’s husband, the literary critic Stanley Hyman.

Together, these two actors work at the peak of their powers to turn marriage into demented theater, coiling a young couple (played by Odessa Young and Logan Lerman) into their sick orbit and twisting the story into “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” territory, but with a hallucinatory edge.And it’s this character, who only sees emptiness beneath the face powder of polite society and openly mocks decorum,

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