Stephen King loves to write about writers, as he has in his new Apple TV+ miniseries Lisey’s Story -or at least the widow of a deceased author.
Julianne Moore stars as Lisey, wife of famed novelist Scott Landon (Clive Owen). As she adjusts to her single life Lisey is pressured by Prof. Roger Dashmiel (Ron Cephas Jones) to release her husband’s works, which she insists she is not about to do. Angrily, he arranges for unhinged fan Jim (Dane DeHaan) to coerce her into submission.
Meanwhile one of Lisey’s sisters Amanda (Joan Allen) is in need of care as she falls into a hypnotic state, hallucinating about the past. Another sister Darla (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who also offers care is frequently locking horns with Lisey.
But while Lisey is challenged just to move forward she is deeply connected to the memory of Scott in scenes that are confusingly ghost / flashback, and she’s not about to make much progress given he has set her a mysterious task of following treasure hunt-like clues around the home.
Being Stephen King there’s also a touch of the spooky with Scott having possessed strange powers owning an eerie swimming pool. Is this insight what made him such a successful novelist with ardent fans? Maybe.
Set against the colourful autumn of New Jersey, the palette is visually striking whether as ‘real’ or other worldly…. But despite some alarming moments designed to jolt, this nevertheless lands as slow burn TV (with some uneven audio levels to boot).
Julianne Moore shifts languidly from scene to scene, only raising her voice to protest as required. Tormented Joan Allen has the pleasure of appearing practically catatonic in repeated scenes, while Clive Owen gets a little more fun with momentary madness.
Quite where this is headed seems to be the perplexing trait of not just King but producer J.J. Abrams whose work on Lost made for some television equally confounding as arresting.
Your grasp on what Lisey’s Story really is may well be directly related to your patience for story payoffs and attachment to Julianne Moore. My best advice, don’t expect answers early on and stay away from the pool.
Now screening on Apple TV+.