Shy People isn’t an easy movie to track down, but watching it will be worth the effort - even on VHS. It has a fascinating history, premiering at Cannes to mixed reviews, but near-universal acclaim for its lead performances by Barbara Hershey and Jill Clayburgh. Despite Hershey’s win for Best Actress, however, Shy People was given a limited release with zero fanfare.
This is a weird, weird, dark, dark, fish-out-of-water dramedy about a wealthy Manhattanite (Clayburgh) and her daughter (Martha Plimpton) who go to the bayous of Louisiana to visit a long-lost cousin (Hershey) about whom Clayburgh plans to write for Cosmo. With characters who are oblivious to the certifiably insane and unpredictable things happening around them, Shy People seems to exist within the dreams of a backwoods melodrama. Martha Plimpton has a coke problem and falls in love with a distant cousin who’s been forced to live in a cage, Barbara Hershey sets a bar on fire and wears fake rotten teeth, and Jill Clayburgh is too concerned with writing her piece for Cosmo to notice that anything is amiss.
Find it. Watch it. Weird yourself out.