Not so much a biopic as a fanciful evocation of its complex subject, Josephine Decker’s Shirley (2020), adapted by former Chicago playwright Sarah Gubbins from Susan Scarf Merrell’s 2014 novel, attempts the alchemical in conjuring Shirley Jackson’s witchy claustrophobic literary magic, which found horror and humor in the mundane. It focuses far more on the former, but thanks to a mesmerizing performance by Elisabeth Moss as Jackson, it mostly succeeds. Aspects of Jackson’s real life, especially her convoluted marriage to satyrlike literary critic and academic Stanley Hyman (Michael Stuhlbarg), blend with the real-life mystery that inspired her 1951 novel Hangsaman. A young couple, Fred and Rose Nemser (Logan Lerman and Odessa Young), move into the Jacksons’ Bennington home, where their relationship begins to mirror that of Shirley and Stanley. (The latter’s four children, of whom Jackson wrote frequently, have vanished from the narrative like the missing girl in Jackson’s nascent novel.) The story flirts with obvious references (a group of boys on the street playing with rocks, a la “The Lottery,” along with echoes of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Richard Yates’s Revolutionary Road). But Moss cuts through the self-conscious narrative glaze and Sturla Brandth Grøvlen’s crepuscular cinematography with serpentine cunning and palpable anguish.