Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Why You Should Watch ’11.22.63’ on Hulu


First, a confession: I’ve never read a Stephen King book. Not a one. I’ve read a short story from the Salem’s Lot universe in a vampire anthology, and I’ve read an excerpt from On Writing. I did not read 11.22.63. I didn’t even pay much attention to the Under the Dome miniseries when it was on, although I have seen Misery more than once.

I wanted to watch 11.22.63 because the gal one cube over from me at the Day Job recommended it. I soon discovered there are many reasons to watch this Hulu miniseries, reasons that make it much better than Under the Dome.

1. James Franco. I enumerated the reasons I appreciate the older Franco brother one Hanukkah night. He’s still my favorite film Allen Ginsberg. (Yeah, I still haven’t seen Kill Your Darlings. I’m behind on my writer biopics.) He may be one of my people, one of the bi/pans, but that remains undetermined. He’s definitely a cute Jewish boy with curly hair, though.

In this miniseries, he plays a high school English teacher. He does so convincingly. I think James Franco might actually make a good English teacher in real life. He would be a distraction to the students who like boys, but still.

2. Lucy Fry is Marina Oswald. You may remember Lucy Fry as the Moroi princess Lissa Dragomir in the Vampire Academy movie. Here she plays the physically and emotionally abused wife of Lee Harvey Oswald. She warms to the advances of historically fictitious character Bill Turcotte, played by the lovely young English actor George MacKay, a Kentucky farm boy enlisted as a helper by Franco’s character Jake. Sadly, Bill and Marina are not destined for the happy ending that Lissa and Christian Ozera enjoy.

I read in a Goodreads discussion group that the character Bill did not appear in the book, but was added for the miniseries.

3. The plot is genuinely intriguing. It has a wrinkle in time – a magical closet that takes a person back to a specific date in 1960, and no matter how long they stay, only two minutes have passed in the modern world. Diner owner Al, losing a battle with cancer, recruits Jake to use the portal to go back in time and follow Lee Harvey Oswald to determine if Oswald is, in fact, the sole killer responsible for the murder of President Kennedy. If he is sure of Oswald’s guilt, Jake is supposed to kill Oswald so that the president lives and, Al hopes, the Vietnam War will end much, much sooner than it did historically.

4. Al is played by Chris Cooper. I enumerated in the In Cold Blood post the film projects that make Cooper such an important character actor. It helps that he kissed Kevin Spacey. I mean, I don’t know if it helps his career, but it helps me, personally. It’s not a positive example of lgbtq+ media representation, but in the 1990s, we were lucky to see same-sex kisses on the big screen at all.

5. Speaking of kisses, this Stephen King-derived material is surprisingly romantic. Bill/Marina is only the secondary romantic plot; Jake finds love in the past with Sadie Dunhill (Sarah Gadon, the heroine of Dracula Untold), a librarian. Of course, as Al warns Jake, if you push against the past, the past pushes back. Jake’s pursuit of Oswald places Sadie in grave danger, causing Jake to wonder if his true mission is to live a long, happy life with Sadie, and the president be damned.

6. Sadie’s favorite book is From Here to Eternity. When Jake first lays eyes on Sadie, she’s sitting on a park bench, reading From Here to Eternity. The dust jacket photo of James Jones appears prominently in the scene. The two discuss the book, mentioning that the book is better than the movie. (It is. It is much, much better. And the movie’s still great.) Later, when Jake thinks all is lost, he hallucinates or imagines Sadie sitting on a bench in a bus depot, reading From Here to Eternity.

All 8 parts have now been released, so if you have access, check it out. It’s science fiction, and there’s a touch of Kingly horror, and there’s even a touch of a dystopian present, but don’t feel bound by any one genre. It’s much more interesting stuff than Under the Dome, although maybe not quite as spectacular as The Shining.

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