Wild Nights with Emily

Look how wild this is! And it's still daytime!

There are two things I know about Emily Dickinson: She was a reclusive spinster, and many of her poems can be sung to the tune of “Yellow Rose of Texas.” The second thing, which is definitely true, is addressed in “Wild Nights with Emily,” Madeleine Olnek’s deadpan biopic that tongue-in-cheekily details how the first thing probably isn’t. Turns out Emily (played by Molly Shannon with apt nervous spaciness) had a romantic relationship with her brother’s wife, Susan (Susan Ziegler), on whom her brother was cheating with one Mabel Todd (Amy Seimetz), who would posthumously publish Emily’s work after erasing all of the poet’s references to “Sue.” Olnek wants to set the record straight (as it were) about Emily’s life and personality, but she does it in the style of the “Drunk History” TV show: historical facts mixed with comedy. A potential publisher of Emily’s poems (Brett Gelman) is a fatuous, “woke” feminist; Emily and Susan (and the film itself) mock the shallow verses of Helen Hunt Jackson, then called “America’s greatest lady poet,” with modern causticity, albeit expressed in the formal, contraction-less language of the 1880s. It’s altogether more charming and sweet than you might expect an Emily Dickinson biography to be.

Crooked Marquee

B (1 hr., 24 min.; PG-13, some fairly mild sexuality.)