Wicked Little Letters

Wicked Little Letters
Wicked Little Letters
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The Times’ indictment of women involved in suffragist and feminist movements that swept the UK during the 1920s, was rather blasphemous as it described them as “Scantily clad jazzing flappers to whom a dance, a new hat or a man with a car is of more importance than the fate of nations”. Thea Sharrock’s comedy mystery Wicked Little Letters puts paid to this notion. This film itself claims, ‘more true than you think,’ would have driven any Victorian author of retrospectively absurd The Ladies’ Book of Etiquette and Manual of Politeness into despair. Wicked Little Letters by Thea Sharrock takes place in Littlehampton, quaint English town following World War I whose central plot revolves around real life occurrences when numerous poison-pen letters were sent anonymously.

Something fishy is going on among all those beautiful cottage terraces down cobbled streets which make up this quintessentially British seaside spot. In most cases, such towns are characterized by the existence of serial letter writers who can be very much like Hemingway writing love letters to Marlene Dietrich or John Keats sending poems to Fanny Brawne; instead however their content may be full of filthy language and personal insultation that shakes this largely conservative traditional community right through its core. Edith Swan (Olivia Colman) stars as a God fearing Christian under her strict father’s rule who resides with elderly mother and father at home. Consistently being subjected to colorful submissions which may well be taken for allegorical symbols (“foxy-arsed old whore” and “sad stinky bitch” are some examples) from an anonymous sender, Edith appears as if she has been molested via post.

Rose plays next door neighbor with an over-the-top Irish immigrant called Rose (Jessie Buckley), whose performance is truly remarkable but not divine; she transforms from single parenthood to being the prime suspect. She was an enemy of modern men, a man of tradition and stoicism, the misogynist anti-Christ, and that woman whom every man feared in those days. Her speech is rude and she has no manners: however Buckley performs well as this character.

Jessie Buckley, Olivia Colman and Timothy Spall are actors of such caliber who make this picture a largely enjoyable viewing experience. Wicked Little Letters could not have been complete without Anjana Vasan playing Police Officer Gladys Moss whose role makes it possible to touch upon all categories of women’s perceptions at that time.

Moss is walking on a thin line between Edith’ s agreeable submissiveness and Rose’s defiant behavior because she is colored as well as works in a male dominated police force. This creates an interesting power play between complicity and subversion as these women negotiate their own ever changing dynamics within the context of male resistance to gender equality.

Wicked Little Letters is a film that plays on an amusing homoerotic juxtaposition of a white woman not being able to “find herself” in the inherently male, patriarchal and establishment society. In Rose’s voice full of swear words which was embarrassing due to the times she lived in this makes it seem to be funny. However, this becomes boring quickly as the film spends too much time on it. Fact in this case is stranger than fiction but nevertheless, Jonny Sweet’s script presents humorous nonsense that spoils the film’s atmosphere which makes you believe that the story continues to strive and undermine the movie itself as a thought-provoking social commentary.

Wicked Little Letters switches between fits of bad language and glaringly obvious comments about contemporary attitudes, lacking subtlety and sometimes laboring points regarding gender inequalities absurdities just like Greta Gerwig’s Barbie did, whose main problem was also with’ okay we get it.’ The movie mentioned various references about old-fashioned ideas concerning women who appear on our screens but these do not give room for expanding on this aspect leading only to a superficial perception of it whose simplicity can be summed up by saying that: “look at how badly these men treat these women.”

As far as punch lines are concerned with regards to comedies of a mystery nature, we have been given quite a weak one since from its very beginning one knows who committed the crime even if they are not detective Jacques Clouseau himself. Wicked Little Letters is a film that soils itself with recycled humor and underdevelopment in narrative areas but still manages, somehow or other, to find itself through high class displays from all members of its cast plus having true British eccentricity running through its spine.

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