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Hailee Steinfield in 'Dickinson'. (Photo: Apple TV+)
Hailee Steinfield in 'Dickinson'. (Photo: Apple TV+)






4/5 Stars


Dickinson audaciously explores the constraints of society, gender, and family from the perspective of rebellious young poet Emily Dickinson. 


Emily Dickinson is one of my favourite poets of all time. Her fascination with the macabre really connected with me when I was a teenager, all the way into my twenties when I studied literature at varsity.

So, I naturally gravitated towards a series about the early years of her life and think there are few people more talented to bring her story to life than Hailee Steinfeld. Although she's famous to younger audiences for her lead role in the blockbuster Bumblebee, I remember her blowing me away in the Oscar-award winning True Grit, ten years ago.

And I wasn't disappointed. She is at the height of her powers as the determined and dreamy Emily, who survives on writing and her obsession with death. For some reason, as you'll be able to see in the trailer, death is played here by rapper Wiz Khalifa. And I have to say this is one of the few missteps in the show. I just don't understand why you wouldn't choose someone a little more experienced in this role. Whose voice isn't maybe as synonymous with chilled good times at a party. I found it tough to believe him as the menacing character of death. But I say this with full knowledge that many people will be able to sustain their disbelief at this casting.

Other things that make this show a very unconventional period piece and altogether a bit whacky and wonderful are the modern music, the dreamlike editing, the breaking of the fourth wall and a very tongue in cheek sense of comic timing.

Anyway, back to Hailee's turn as Emily. She delivers a performance with gravitas and levity as well as a certain oddball characteristic that is hard to quantify as well as being endearing. It would be so easy to dislike a woman who seems to be so dismissive of responsibility and likely to break hearts, from her admirer's to her brother's. But with a very light touch, Hailee and the writers manage to make her well rounded. You see where she is childlike, and you see where she is sophisticated. You can pinpoint the moments where she experiences joy because it is palpable and the moment where she loses hope because it carries the same weight of emotion.

I also enjoyed how we're able to see a female historical figure who wasn't perfect by any means and never tried to be. She's flawed but she is absorbing and fun to watch.

Overall, I would say that Dickinson is a strange show. With jarring music choices and editing and whimsy but that's why I enjoyed binging it. I admit that I was a bit unsure at the start but that's because I had to get used to how different it is. I think if you watch the whole show it's hard not to fall in love with it. And especially Emily.

I hope that it gets a second season because I would love to see where exactly they take it. I know that Emily didn't have a very long life and that it was filled with heartache, but I really want to see how it's portrayed in this format.

However, rumour has it that Hailee has been cast as Kate Bishop in the new Hawkeye TV series on Disney's streaming service, so I guess we'll have to wait and see what happens.

In the meantime, I would highly suggest binging Dickinson for a wild and chaotic ride through the life of one of the greatest poets of all time.


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