Lisey’s Story: Screen adaptation of Stephen King’s tale could leave you more confused than frightened
CHENNAI: US author Stephen King is celebrated for dark horror stories and fans will be happy to learn the legendary writer has scripted the latest Apple+ TV series, “Lisey’s Story,” based on his novel.
The mini-series, consisting of eight 45-minute episodes, follows widow Lisey Landon as disturbing events revive memories of her marriage to an author plagued by darkness.
The series is directed by Chilean auteur Pablo Larrain, who does not seem to quite fit the bill helming something as big and strangely fantastic as “Lisey’s Story,” which causes a bit of confusion with its back-and-forth narration and constant flashbacks. Admittedly, it could not have been easy for Larrain to tackle a 528-pager, but it seems no effort was made to trim the fat and present King’s 2006 novel in a format that works for TV.
Another issue is that there is too much talent competing for screen time — Julianne Moore, Clive Owen, Joan Allen, Jennifer Jason Leigh, just to name a few — and too many wild diversions. Perhaps “Lisey’s Story” could have been packed into a single movie by cutting out the chaff and retaining the core element.
Lisey (Julianne Moore) has struggled for two years since losing her renowned author-husband, Landon Scott (Clive Owen). Although a darling of both academics and students, who adored his bestselling tomes, he is shot dead during one of his book launches. The couple had a passionate relationship and kept no secrets from each other, including Scott’s horrible childhood with a brutish father.
While Lisey is trying hard to emerge from her husband’s shadow, a college professor wants Scott’s unpublished works and personal papers. When he fails to convince Lisey to hand them over, he takes the help of Jim (Dane DeHaan), who believes that Scott’s writings are national treasures and must be read by all, leading to a manic obsession that forms the basis of much tension in the series and gives it some of its scarier moments.
The story gets more complicated with a fantastical element involving a magical realm called Boo’ya Moon, supernatural suggestion, false memories, monsters and a pool with life-giving properties. Viewers could find themselves commiserating with Lisey’s sister, Darla (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who is thoroughly confused by what is happening around her.
The narrative structure is repetitive, and it all ends up feeling a little overpacked.
Where Larrain scores big is with the visual effect he produces with a soothing blend of colors and textures, and the addition of orchestral music. Also, the photography by Darius Khondji is breathtaking, but it is apparent that the director has bitten off more that he could possibly chew.