Film Review

Stephen King’s Lisey’s Story

I didn’t really know what to think of Lisey’s Story for the first two episodes or so because it’s so disarmingly, otherworldly strange and surreal, but as the story unfolds in an almost subconscious vernacular, step by step I found my footing and it has become likely my favourite Stephen King adaptation ever undertaken. I think it’s the closest we’re ever gonna get to an ‘arthouse’ King story, and the sheer audacity and bizarro world sensibility of it might be why it’s not being received too well, but make no mistake, this is gorgeous top shelf stuff. The story, told in bold expressionistic strokes, tells of the core relationship between Lisey (Julianne Moore) and her deceased husband Scott Landon (Clive Owen), a famous writer and deeply troubled man who left a series of clues for her before passing that will lead her on a journey to the heart of his unfinished literary work and protect her from deranged homicidal stalker Jim Dooley (Dane DeHaan) who seeks to find his hidden manuscripts. That all sounds very straightforward but the creators opt to tell this story in deep, dense flashbacks, musical cues that take prescience over dialogue and an arresting, dreamlike visual palette that takes over for exposition. In Scott’s books he tells of another dimension called Boo’Ya Moon, a realm of the dead and half-dead that’s full of alien beauty and home to a terrifying monster called the Long Boy. This sort of exotic astral plane proves to be very real and integral in both putting Scott’s spirit to rest and killing Dooley, who becomes quite the force to reckon with for Lisey and her two sisters (Jennifer Jason Leigh & Joan Allen). Moore is fantastic as Lisey, full of emotional intuition and charisma, while Owen has never been better and his level of commitment and intensity to a role that is cast way, way against his usual type is staggering, I have never seen him so raw and vulnerable. There are frequent flashbacks to his horrifying childhood where he struggles to deal with his half mad Viet Nam vet father who is so mentally far gone he can barely get a sentence out. The dad is played by an unrecognizable Michael Pitt who manages to be despicable, relatable, pathetic, chilling and heartbreaking in the same notes, it’s a mad dog, candid performance you don’t usually see in mainstream stuff and he should win all of the awards. The show is just unlike anything I’ve ever seen, from the strikingly intense, almost David Lynch style work from the actors to the stunning mystical dreamscape of Boo’Ya Moon to the languid, formless narrative that’s free of peripherals or structure to the deep, haunting emotional core to the sweet, innocent and life affirming romance between Lisey and Scott to the wonderfully atmospheric, spine chilling score by ‘Clark’, this is just grand, unique storytelling that sweeps you away into its world. You have to be willing to go though, and I think that’s why so many people recoiled at this. Many were likely expecting an accessible, routine King adaptation firmly planted in the ground like we usually see wrought of his work, but this is simply something from another world altogether, it’s one that you feel your way through in images and impression rather than dialogue and drama. If you’re ready for that, I’d highly recommend it. Don’t listen to the hate out there, it’s truly, truly extraordinary stuff.

-Nate Hill

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