Young couple Fred and Rosie Nemser move in with Stanley Hyman and Shirley Jackson as Fred begins his job at Bennington College, where Stanley is also a professor. No sooner do they arrive than Stanley asks the pregnant Rosie to take over the household chores, as Shirley has become incapacitated by mental illness and writer's block. Shirley is obsessed by story of a young woman who recently disappeared from Bennington's campus and wants to tell her story as a novel. Unbeknownst to the Nemsers, Shirley and Stanley have a perverse arrangement to psychologically break down the Nemsers by causing strains in their marriage, sabotaging Fred's attempts at academic tenure, and to try to instigate affairs with them (which Shirley briefly does with Rosie). As the Nemsers slowly crack under the pressure of Stanley's manipulation and Shirley's abuse, Shirley gains increasing clarity and resolve to finish her novel. By the time that Rosie is on the verge of suicide and Stanley has ensured that Fred is never going to get hired at Bennington, Shirley completes her novel and Stanley declares it a masterpiece. Shirley has some brief regret for ruining the Nemsers' family but she quickly forgets that and dances joyously with Stanley.
Tags: Elisabeth Moss