‘Lisey’s Story’ moves Prestige miniseries to a new frontier: horror

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At this point, the prestige Oscar-winning actress-led miniseries is a category in its own right. But the format, passed from the wording to the standard with astonishing rapidity, is also a vehicle for other genres. In his heart, Big little lies was a soap opera; more recently, Easttown mare took the small town detective show on a trip to Wawa. To fuel its meteoric expansion, the limited series continues to acquire new styles and tones. Lisey’s story, the eight-episode drama that premiered last weekend on Apple TV +, takes the model to a new frontier: full-fledged horror.

Adapted by Stephen King from his 2006 novel, Lisey’s story is, in many ways, familiar. The astonishing surplus of King movies and shows makes it easy to recognize the author’s touchstones, even if you’ve never read a word of his prose. (King IP is so ingrained in culture that Hulu’s ephemeral anthology stone castle designed a tribute not from one specific work, but from its collective catalog with original stories set in King’s larger verse.) Like many of King’s works, not to mention his residency real, Lisey’s story takes place in Maine. The premise centers on a disturbed fan of a bestselling author, at the Misery, and the characters visit a spooky and snowy hotel, at the The brilliant. Yes Lisey’s story were not written by King, he would still be entitled to royalties.

Lisey’s story has personal meaning for King. The main character is the widow of a very popular fiction writer whose work “perfectly mixes the realistic and the fantastic”. The book was inspired by King’s return from a hospital stay, during which he discovered that his wife, Tabitha, also a writer, had remodeled his office in his absence. King used the incident as a springboard to explore what could happen as a result of his own death. The result is that Lisey’s story is reminiscent of not only King’s work, but the figure of King himself. On the one hand, personal connection gives Lisey’s story creativity, sacrifice and other key themes based on first-hand knowledge; on the other hand, the fictitious author’s hosannas can border on excess as they are so close to self-flattery.

At all these known quantities, the TV version of Lisey’s story adds something new: Julianne Moore, the latest performer to revisit the small screen after making her name in the cinema. (Moore had a prolonged run on 30 Rock as Jack’s childhood girlfriend, Nancy Donovan; prior to that, her most recent TV role was 18 years old.) Moore is no stranger to fear – she succeeded Jodie Foster as Clarice Starling in Ridley Scott’s Annibal, and played a quieter genre of deranged in an unlikely quarantine classic Safe. But even after the resounding success of figures like Jordan Peele, horror remains an unlikely IMDb entry for an actor of Moore’s cachet. anthologies like american horror story and The fear of … adapted horror to the extended runtime of television; The foreigner brought King to HBO last year. Lisey’s story marks a new stage in the gradual integration of a long-standing niche.

Moore is clearly the star of the show, anchoring a story about heartbreak and partnership. Yet she blends smoothly into a blindly starry cast. Clive Owen plays Scott Landon, the writer who marries Lisey and relies on her for emotional support before passing away two years before the events of the series; During his lifetime, Scott also felt a kinship with Amanda (Joan Allen), Lisey’s sister who suffers from chronic bouts of depression and self-harm. Dane DeHaan haunts the fringes of the series as Jim Dooley, an obsessed sidekick who aims to separate Lisey from Scott’s unfinished manuscripts by any means necessary. Jennifer Jason Leigh – as Darla, a third sister to Amanda and Lisey who takes care of the first and resents the second – is only fourth on the call sheet: the cast is stacked even according to the 2021 TV standards.

Lisey’s story was directed by Pablo Larraín, the most famous Chilean filmmaker in the United States for Jackie, another story about a grieving widow who deals with the inheritance of her famous husband. The longest Lisey’s story continues, the more the parallels become clearer. In his obsessive pursuit of the effects of his idol, Dooley is more than misguided; he is an outright misogynist, calling Lisey a parasite who monopolizes what she has no right to. (He sees her as “Yoko,” not because she has a knack for concept art.) Through flashbacks, however, we come to understand how much Scott depended on Lisey to anchor her in. reality and bring it back from the brink: Both Scott and Amanda, we learn, have a connection to another dimension called Boo’ya Moon which is implicitly the source of Scott’s creativity. If there isn’t a supernatural metaphor, then it’s not a Stephen King story.

“Boo’ya Moon” is a silly and childish name, for understandable reasons: Scott started traveling there with his older brother as a child to escape their abusive father. Corn Lisey’s story makes it more silly by piling on the jargon while failing to clarify the concepts that matter. By the end of the series, we come to understand terms like “bool hunt” (a treasure hunt), “Long Boy” (a Boo’ya Moon monster made up of human body parts), and “doubles” ( people whose spirit travels to Boo’ya Moon while their body remains on Earth). Yet we don’t understand, for example, how King wants to portray the connection between artistic brilliance and mental illness, suggested by Scott’s connection to Amanda but never fully explored, let alone the sensitivity and nuance that the subject deserves. Depending on how he serves the story, Boo’ya Moon is part the afterlife, part the dreamlike landscape, and part the allegory for inspiration. Lisey’s story gives a lot of detail, except the ones that matter most.

Rhythm is also an issue. A 500-page book may require more space than a movie, but eight hours is too much. Horror, in particular, suffers greatly from momentum arrest. Make the suspense last too long and the plot loses plot; dwelling on violence and shock can cross the line of traumatic pornography, like Amazon Them was charged earlier this spring. Lisey does both. Mysteries like Scott’s cause of death or Amanda’s fall into catatonia go unanswered for so long that the viewer forgets them almost by the time they are solved. Meanwhile, a scene where Dooley beats Lisey to mush is heartbreaking, as are several episodes dedicated to graphic child abuse. (In a deliberate choice of direction, we do not see Dooley lands a punch, but we hear it and see Lisey’s response.) King has faithfully kept the substance of the novel, unsurprisingly for an adaptation left to the author. It just doesn’t suit the tempo of a TV show.

Moore is the backbone of Lisey’s story, and it is essential for parts which function despite the major defects of the whole. The tasteless wife of a genius is a frustrating cliché Lisey’s story tries to subvert, arguing that Lisey’s care for Scott has made her a true contributor to his bestsellers. On the page, however, the series threatens to succumb to the trope; Lisey can be a thin character with no passion or hobbies of her own. It is Moore who brings his resilience, resentment, and pain to life. “My prize is learning to be alone,” Lisey says of a posthumous bool hunt Scott left behind. Long flashbacks are interrupted by reaction shots of Lisey’s troubled face. Often, the pictures are more convincing than the memories they punctuate. (Credit where this is due to the hair and makeup teams: Lisey sports a different haircut in each timeline, which makes Moore’s wigs essential for telling what happens when.)

Moore isn’t the only one supporting a rickety structure. We hear little about Scott’s work, which doesn’t exactly sell its mass appeal – a common problem in stories about superstar creators. But DeHaan’s insane dedication certainly does. With Michael Pitt unrecognizable as Scott’s dangerous and cheated father, DeHaan gives Lisey’s story a necessary shock of terror. Dooley isn’t connected to the show’s supernatural elements, at least initially. But DeHaan’s nervous intensity hints at something that’s not quite out of this world. Owen is good enough as Moore’s former life partner, but it’s DeHaan who becomes his real foil as the characters clash over Scott’s work and who deserves his say.

The strongest half of Lisey’s story is one who is grounded in the real world, physically and emotionally. Larraín, production designer Guy Hendrix Dyas (Creation), and cinematographer Darius Khondji (Uncut gems) have fun with Boo’ya Moon, a lush CGI landscape at permanent twilight. But it’s the Landons’ large, empty farmhouse – from Scott’s cavernous attic to the overgrown pool Lisey always swims in – that feels truly transporting. If the straight horror parts of Lisey’s story having a good side is what they bring out in Moore’s performance: Lisey banging her head against a car window; Lisey screams murder when she finds a dead bird in her mailbox; Lisey sinks into the pool as the fog slowly surrounds her. Execution may be lacking, but the idea of Big little lies by means of The brilliant is his.


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