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Wednesday, May 26, 2021

[Review] Limited Series “Lisey’s Story” Offers Gorgeous Yet Uneven Adaptation of Stephen King Novel

Of all prolific author Stephen King’s works, Lisey’s Story ranks high among his favorites. It’s one that he’s longed to see adapted to television, so it likely comes as no surprise that King took the task upon himself, penning the teleplay and serving as executive producer for this limited eight-episode series from Apple+. That’s both a blessing and a curse here.

Lisey Landon (Julianne Moore) lost her husband Scott (Clive Owen), a famous author, two years ago, yet her grief rules her life. Having spent her life with him living in his larger-than-life shadow, she’s lost. She struggles to connect with her abrasive yet caring sister Darla (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and mentally unwell sister Amanda (Joan Allen). Lisey is hounded by an academic, Dashiel (Ron Cephas Jones), who demands Scott’s unpublished work gets handed over to preserve his legacy. So much so that he enlists psychotic Jim Dooley (Dane DeHaan) for help. Through it all, Scott’s presence looms large, sparking a fantastical and existential quest for Lisey that involves the strange world of Boo’ya Moon and its haunting Long Boy. 

Despite the title, this story belongs to Scott. Sure, Lisey frames the narrative with her quest to find answers and move past her grief. Yet, it all stems from Scott, his past, and the cause of death. It’s the mysteriousness of Scott that drives the entire plot. It’s his identity that’s irrevocably intertwined with his grieving widow’s. Everything she does is in service of him, including finding herself.

Lisey often looks back for ideas on how to move forward, traversing memories from childhood to the present. The multiple timelines bleed into each other, making it tricky to find a foothold sometimes. Series director Pablo Larraín doesn’t handhold and uses subtle visual clues to signal wherein the timeline the memory takes place, often by way of Moore’s hair length. Despite the convoluted, nonlinear way of unfolding the mysteries, some plot beats get drawn out far too long. An entire episode dedicates itself to Lisey realizing her next step when earlier episodes spelled it out within minutes, for example. It makes the pacing wildly uneven.

Matching that unevenness is the cast. Leigh and Allen shine brightest, but they’re often relegated to the sidelines or forgotten altogether for long stretches. As the most grounded character that serves as a mirror to the audience, the series could’ve benefitted from more Leigh on screen. DeHaan is purposefully creepy and excels as an unhinged villain that intimidates, but he lays it on so thick that it veers into implausibility. Who for a second would buy that Professor Dashiel couldn’t spot the trouble a mile away when conversing with this rabid lunatic? Moore handles raw emotion like the pro that she is, and Owen nails his enigmatic portrayal, but they struggle with the quieter dialogue-heavy stretches, which is most of the series. Lisey’s Story favors telling over showing, and it can be an energy sap. Even for the actors, it seems, as some are prone to mumble or whisper their way through monologues.

Larraín’s visual approach lends a cinematic quality that draws you in; it’s a gorgeous show that’s exquisitely crafted. The filmmaker tosses viewers in the deep end for the introductory episodes, but navigating the narrative becomes more accessible as it unravels in the back half. Juggling the various characters and timeliness, however, proves a bit too tricky. King got to write the televised version he wanted. He blends two of his favorite subjects – broken women finding themselves and the interior workings of a writer- together through the trademark prism of the supernatural. That’s a blessing for Constant Readers. Not condensing this fantastical journey down into a much more consistent and digestible format serves as the series’ curse. Lisey’s Story is pretty to look at and fairly faithful, but far too bloated to be very engaging.

Lisey’s Story debuts the first two episodes on Friday, June 4, 2021, followed by one new episode weekly, every Friday, exclusively on Apple TV+.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/reviews/3666858/review-limited-series-liseys-story-offers-gorgeous-yet-uneven-adaptation-stephen-king-novel/

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