Doctor Sleep Nov 9, 2019 18:25:29 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Nov 9, 2019 18:25:29 GMT -5
Doctor Sleep (2019)
Directed by: Mike Flanagan
Directed by: Mike Flanagan
Ewan McGregor channels the famous Jack Nicholson scene from The Shining in Doctor Sleep.
Given the (controlled) hype among cinephiles and the gravitas of The Shining's legacy, the fact Doctor Sleep is not the Shock Treatment of sequels is a feat to praise on its own. In a way, if Stanley Kubrick's subversive, one-of-a-kind masterwork was in any way comparable to his other gem 2001: A Space Odyssey, saying Doctor Sleep is to its predecessor what 2010: The Year We Make Contact was to 2001 is a fair analogy, given the sturdy story and various captivating moments that do exist in this sequel.
I can't recall a lot of uproar or widespread skepticism when it was announced Stephen King would write a follow-up to the novel that established him as the real deal, so to speak. That alone should tell you all you need to know about what a trusted author King is, and the name he has made for himself with dozens of books and enough personal setbacks to kill a career. Turning what would become Doctor Sleep into a film is another prerogative. Not only is writer/director Mike Flanagan working with the delicate pages of King, who is known to be less than forthcoming with praise when his books become film adaptations, but he's also inevitably working on the foundation laid by Kubrick, a filmmaker in a class all his own. Flanagan's efforts are uniformly solid in making King's words formidably translate to the screen, but some misgivings arise in the narrative sometimes turning too far away from its protagonist and ultimately following an all-too familiar path.
The film opens with a series of prologues informing us that Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor), the little boy who was once trapped in the Overlook Hotel along with his father, Jack, and mother, Wendy, has grown up to be severely unstable. An alcoholic plagued by the memories of his angry father, he has failed to grapple with his paranormal abilities that allow him to telepathically communicate with a select few "gifted" individuals (this referred to as the "shine"). In the present, however, Dan, as he's now known, gets sober, lives in a humble abode in New Hampshire, and works in hospice using his shine to comfort patients on the verge of death.
The quietness of his life is disrupted when a young girl named Abra (Kyliegh Curran) enters the picture. Her shine is a powerful one; powerful enough to force her to flee from a cult of superhumans known as the "True Knot" cult. The group, led by Rose the Hat (Rebecca Ferguson), drives around the country in RVs tracking down young, impressionable children with the same abilities in order to murder them and inhale their souls, which waft into the air and resemble vape smoke of all things. By inhaling the smoke, the lives of these individuals is extended, yet time is fleeting for Abra and Dan, who are both in danger, forcing our character to return to the Overlook.
Doctor Sleep is a hefty metaphor for addiction, but it's often too focused on True Knot as opposed to Dan, the most interesting character with the most compelling predicament. That's not to say Rebecca Ferguson doesn't do a fine job, conveying a character who is essentially immortal and feeds off the pain of youth, for she absolutely does. This might be a personal taste, but my interest in the specifics of the True Knot cult are unequal to my interest in Dan reckoning with his own demons. The moments of him using his shine for good are fascinating, culminating in a strong sequence involving him comforting an aging old man who has some unrealized fears about dying in his final moments in life. Likely an issue with the source material at hand, the dizzying and occasionally schizophrenic timeline take too much away from Dan. At least Curran is a likable screen presence as well, handling her first role with poise when there's truly no rulebook for material like this.
Mike Flanagan (Hush, Oculus) is a careful director. He's a craftsman by nature, effectively establishing setting and mood while slowly working out the details of his narratives, and he finds his style at-home with a story as dense as Doctor Sleep's. Flanagan is also a director with a fairly ho-hum visual style, and that's where Doctor Sleep show its glaring inferiority to its predecessor. Expecting this belated sequel even to come close to touching the cinematic achievement that came before it is a foolish one, but Flanagan's overall execution, from a directorial standpoint, doesn't excite much. This is a somber picture, and Flanagan nor cinematographer Michael Fimognari dazzle in the visual department. Similar to my grievances with Joker, a film that was only missing director Todd Phillips stepping outside of his comfort zone to give us some flair, Doctor Sleep is a few camera angles and aesthetic bravery away from turning a good enough picture into a great one.
Flanagan indeed does get a lot out of his actors. Bound to be overlooked is Alex Essoe in her role as Wendy. Only present in a handful of scenes, Essoe nails the demeanor of Wendy that Shelley Duvall uncomfortably executed in The Shining, right down to a near-perfect replication of Duvall's vocal tone. McGregor, too, reminds us how great he is in a versatile performance that is partly defined by his weathered, worn facial expressions. It's a symphony of stand-out performances in a film that finds ways to use all its actors effectively. Even one-off appearances from Bruce Greenwood (J. J. Abrams' Star Trek) and Jacob Tremblay (Good Boys) are well-placed and showcase their talent.
The final act plays like a Shining theme-park ride as it rekindles us with the Overlook Hotel and all the horrors that took place there. It's merely cute to see famous callbacks of Kubrick's film in a nostalgic way, but it's hardly surprising, let alone very memorable. Here, Flanagan's static direction renders much of the atmosphere either tame or perfunctory, and it comes off as a Marvel-esque conclusion to the story, when the gravity of the climax should've rested in the ambiance as opposed to what essentially comes off as surface-level brand recognition.
It admittedly did take some willing on my part to embrace a sequel to The Shining, for reasons I'd proclaim to be rather obvious. That said, Doctor Sleep is sufficient in adding a chapter to one of the most acclaimed horror stories of all time, but the seams begin to stretch as Flanagan is torn between serving two masters, so to speak. It was proven long ago those two can't quite harmoniously coexist.
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Kyliegh Curran, Rebecca Ferguson, Cliff Curtis, Jacob Tremblay, and Bruce Greenwood. Directed by: Mike Flanagan.