Photo: Apple TV +
The first series of Apple TV + Lisey’s story effectively sets the scene, introducing viewers to the six main characters from the Stephen King novel on which this production is based. With a dreamlike and surreal tone, director Pablo Larraín walks through an introduction to a story about which has intangible things like memory, passion and creativity. Does art belong to the artist or the reader? The 2006 novel was one of King’s most personal, which is why he chose to adapt it himself, but it’s also one of his most unusual. There are no killer clowns in the sewers or haunted old hotels in Lisey’s story. It’s about connections, art, fandom, and mortality – not the easiest topics for a prestige miniseries. However, the first one is indeed brooding and very impressive in its art. Will it create more momentum and urgency to hold viewers closer? It is not necessary now, but it will soon be.
First of all, a bit of history. Stephen King considers Lisey’s story his best novel, and it is clearly a novel that has struck very closely. The genesis of the novel dates back to the summer of 1999, when King was hit by a pickup truck in Maine and was nearly killed. This forced the writer not only to question his mortality – his work became much more philosophical after the accident – but to consider what his death and his art would have done to his wife, Tabitha. The dedication of the book reads “For Tabby”. Lisey’s story emerged from these thoughts, especially after returning from the hospital to see that Tabitha had organized her studio. He returned to its author’s studio and had a vision of what it would have been like if he had never come home, his work in boxes.
And that’s essentially how Lisey’s story opens, as the widow of a famous writer browses her papers, manuscripts and other work products in her studio. Scott Landon (Clive Owen) is dead. Scott Landon is also very present. Lisey Landon (Julianne Moore) has the flashes of memory that come with cleaning up the belongings of lost loved ones. Scott tells him that she is every story and that if stories were once all he had, now he has it. It’s an interesting comparison. Is she like another of his stories? Something that matches his fantasy worlds? Or does she bring it out of them? Is she a way to escape his violent visions?
The incredible cinematographer Darius Khondji (Seven, Midnight in Paris, Uncut Gems, and many others) turns Lisey walking through the grounds of the Landon House in a way that almost resembles Larraín’s movie Jackie. After all, it is also the story of a woman who emerges from her husband’s shadow after his death. And there is another succulent sheet music (this one by Clark, who composed for National treasure and the movie Daniel is not real) as Larraín and Khondji follow Lisey through the natural world on her property, trying to capture her feelings using imagery of a lonely woman.
The first does not present the viewer only Lisey and Scott Landon. We also meet Lisey’s sisters: Darla (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and Amanda (Joan Allen), who is going through a nervous breakdown after learning of her ex-husband’s remarriage. There are also two invaders in this world: a professor named Dashmiel (Ron Cephas Jones) and a psychopath named Jim Dooley (Dane DeHaan). Dashmiel comes to Lisey at the start of the episode looking for Scott’s papers and unpublished works, even blocking the way to her car. Does she own the work of a brilliant writer because she was his partner? Who owns art?
Meanwhile, Amanda struggles, often falling into catatonic states after slitting her hands, and she has a vision of Scott in one of them. He comes up to her and helps her play solitaire before saving her with something he “learned a long time ago as a child.” A clear liquid comes out of her mouth into hers and she returns to normal. He tells her that they need to talk about Lisey, and he later tells Lisey that she needs to protect Amanda. He tries to connect these sisters, even from the Hereafter.
The episode revisits a key event in the life of the Landons, both literally and thematically. Scott Landon was invited to speak at a groundbreaking ceremony at a school called Horlicks – a university also mentioned in King’s first short stories “The Crate” and “The Raft,” both made into separate chapters. Horror show movies. During the ceremony, a mad fan opened fire after saying, “You stole my head.” Landon was hit twice – a dead spot and one in the hand – but miraculously healed. Lisey comes to his hospital room to find him gone. He returns after she goes to the bathroom to turn off a faucet, leaving wet footprints on his bed, and he looks almost perfect. Where did he go? Is the water the same liquid he uses to “heal” Amanda? After all, Landons have always been quick healers.
Scott comes to Lisey and tells her that she’s on a Bool hunt as they watch a vision of their wedding, overhearing a rambling speech from dear old dad. Scott tells her, “Right now you need to take care of Amanda.” Follow the clues. And get your price. And the memory / vision is tied to a clue Lisey found in the attic earlier in the episode: “Bool. First clue. I Said Doctor Mr. MD “At their wedding, the (rather excellent) group sings”Good loveBy the Rascals with this memorable line, “I said, ‘Doctor, Mr. MD'” Why was Scott leading Lisey to this memory? And why does Amanda look so sad at her sister’s wedding?
Lisey’s memories start to fade. She sees a vision of the Horlicks shooter in her bathroom and wakes up to find Amanda in the dry tub, looking lost again. As Jim Dooley, now tasked by Dashmiel with doing whatever it takes to get Landon’s job, sneaks up a poor librarian, Lisey calls a doctor about her sister and finds Scott outstripped him. He knew Amanda was going to break with reality and arranged for an establishment to take care of her. As Amanda is whisked away to Greenlawn, Darla asks how Scott could have known to plan for his future care.
Jim Dooley may know that. Scott Landon Fan # 1 calls Lisey and says, “You have no rights over Scott Landon.” He threatens her and tells her what she is going to do. He’s going to come and “hurt you in places you didn’t allow the boys to touch you in college dances,” which is such a line from King that even casual fans will know he wrote this script. She tells him to fuck off, which leads Jim to hit a phone and staple a picture of Lisey. He seems nice.
Great opening credits. I really miss the opening credits art setting the tone and these really do with their eerie imagery of a puppet coming to life. Who is the puppet in this story? And who is the puppeteer? And what about the fact that the Lisey puppet does not break its strings until after Scott’s has turned to paper?
There are shots of books and newspaper clippings in Scott’s office, and one is from a fictional film titled Empty devils who has a scary clown face that looks so much like He that it’s almost silly. However, there is another connection in the fact that the second chapter of Doctor Sleep happens to be called “Empty Devils”.
Lisey goes to the bathroom in her dream in a shirt that looks a lot like a rug that could be the Overlook. And we all know what’s going on in bathrooms in The brilliant.
We’ll probably talk more about how this connects to King and Larraín’s other work in the future, but be sure to check out the filmmaker. No, Jackie, The club, and Neruda. He is a major artist, and his long delay Ema will also open this summer.