So tonight at home I got a bug in me to re-watch the Hulu mini-series “11.22.63,” inspired by the Stephen King novel of the same name. As I have alluded to in the past, Stephen King is one of my favorite novelists from my childhood, when he already had a rich catalog of novels going back twenty years. Now it goes back forty-five-plus years. I have always admired artists with an extensive, multi-decade catalog. Beethoven is another that comes to mind. I tend to be loyal and go deep with my artistic inspirations: Eminem is a third one in this category… I listened to him and only him for several years. That King continues to write fine, imaginative fiction that often transcends the blood-and-guts cliches of the horror genre is nowhere as evident as in this fine fantasy-horror tale of a man who goes back through time to stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
I love Stephen King, but I’m not always a fan of the movies and TV shows made from his works (and there are many.. King is the most adapted living author for film and television). The King movies I can say that I unequivocably enjoyed make up a pretty short list: Stand By Me, The Shawshank Redemption, Misery, The Green Mile… and 11.22.63.
What is it I love so much about “11.22.63”? Well, first of all, I loved the book. There’s something about this story that touches me. In a way, it is extremely lonely. A continuing education teacher gets divorced in our time, then goes to 1960, where he embarks on an ultimately ill-fated mission to stop one of the most aggrieved deaths in American History. In the process, he falls in love with a woman whom he ultimately cannot be with. Haunting overtones pervade this story to the very strange circumstances the main character finds himself in. Many times, in reading King I have been struck by the male figure who seems to inhabit a lonely world unto himself. Yet following him on this tale can be very enjoyable. Perhaps it reminds me of my own experience in some ways. It certainly seems to spark a part of my imagination that seems very much at home with many of King’s protagonists.
What makes the “11.22.63” series superior, in my opinion, to many King adaptations is the quality of the drama. I love a good story that is well-told. For me, a well-put together movie has a sense of care and attention to detail, and an organic presence to each moment. Bad drama seems contrived or forced, especially if it’s trying to be haunting. Good film has actors that are enjoyable to watch. I love watching a modern James Franco learning to live in 1960s America. It is riveting, compelling, and haunting. I see the world through his eyes, and I relate to his experience each step of the way. The love he finds is moving and truthful, and actress Sarah Gadon shines as a beacon of light in what must be a truly lonely experience for this time-travelling man. The story I so enjoyed in the novel was transformed and done justice on the screen, all the way down to the harrowing JFK murder scene.
Ultimately, what makes a movie, or a book, great is that you want to come back to it again and again. This is probably the fourth time I’ve seen this mini-series. I am not sure there is any mini-series I have seen four times (I tend to reserve repeated viewings for 2-hour movies). I guess that says it all to me.
If you can make yourself at home with something, then it cannot be all that bad.