Review: Lisey’s Story, Episodes 1 &2

Year: 2021

Runtime: 60 minutes per episode

Director: Pablo Larrain

Writer: Stephen King (novel and screenplay)

Actors: Julianne Moore, Joan Allen, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Clive Owen, Ron Cephas Jones, Dane DeHaan, Omar Metwally, Brian Hutchinson, Peter Scolari

By Joan Amenn

“Every marriage keeps its own secrets.”

-Stephen King

Premiering this weekend on Apple TV, Stephen King’s “Lisey’s Story” (2021) is adapted for the screen by the master of horror himself, with mixed success. Those who love the book, and I am one, will be both drawn in and frustrated by the film version, at least as far as the first two episodes indicate. This is pretty much par for the course with most King adaptations, even those with which he had direct involvement. Viewers are advised that the beginning may be slow and seem confusing with many flashbacks but hopefully, all will be clear in time as the series evolves.

Stop motion CGI opening credits have now become something of a cliché, but “Lisey’s Story” has a stunning take on the standard formula. It offers a tantalizing hope of a better than usual King series. Julianne Moore is an excellent choice as the lead character of Lisey Landon and Clive Owen is once again her onscreen partner as famous author Scott Landon. Owen seems wooden in many of his scenes but in fairness, he does not have much screen time in the first two episodes. This is because when the series opens, he has been dead for two years and Lisey is still mourning his loss. Their love story is told in flashbacks but this is a Stephen King version of love, so there are plenty of signs that Scott has secrets he only gradually reveals to Lisey.

 Joan Allen is truly amazing as the focus of the first episodes as Lisey’s sister Amanda. She and her family have wrestled with her mental health issues for years and we see that another sister, Darla (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is less than supportive when she has a relapse of catatonia. Allen could have easily been too broad in her portrayal which would have been disappointing since her character is so key to the plot of the story. Darla is played as woman who was probably spoiled as a young girl and who doesn’t feel her life should be tied down by her struggling sister now that they are adults. Lisey is the bridge between the two and the film works best when the three women are interacting with each other. They have real chemistry together which makes up for a few other performances that seem to be stock villains straight from Central Casting.

It’s too soon yet to make a fair assessment of “Lisey’s Story” but there is enough here to keep me turning in for the next episodes. The story is ultimately about growing with someone you love may not guarantee that you grow old together. Grief and rebuilding one’s life after loss told in a uniquely skewed way as only King can tell the story is worth checking this series out for.

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