The life of Bryan Kocis, owner of gay porn company Cobra Video, is dramatised & brought to life in dark yet vivid glory(/terror).
Masculinity isn't always a bad thing. When it goes toxic, it's the worst thing.
Episode 8: “The Day in Question”
Directed by James Strong
Written by Bridget Carpenter
* For a review of the previous episode, “Soldier Boy” – click here
The titular day in question has arrived. The day of the assassination.
Jake (James Franco), along with Sadie (Sarah Gadon), is racing to get himself in place. JFK is due to be in Dallas for the fateful ride. Out of nowhere, Jake runs into Frank Dunning (Josh Duhamel), or does he? Just a mirage. Even Sadie runs into the specter of her former husband (T.R. Knight). The past is trying to prevent them in any way, shape or form from doing anything to change it.
Through crowded streets they try to make their way to the Book Depository. They come upon the Grassy Knoll, they see people waiting around for the President of the United States to drive by. All unknowing. Sort of eerie to see them in the midst of everything, knowing what’s to come. Another King reference – Randall Flagg struts through the streets, or someone likely to be him, anyways.
But Jake ends up pulling a gun on a man who’s supposed to know things, yet doesn’t, and Jake fears the past is pushing back harder now so close to the event.
Lee Harvey Oswald (Daniel Webber) is sitting, quiet, alone. Meanwhile, Jake manages to get himself inside the building. Only time is passing, fast. A nice Stephen King homage: REDRUM is on the wall as Sadie and Jake run up the stairs.
As the motorcade pulls around, Oswald sits breathing slowly. He is readying himself. The people on the street cheer, raising their hands, waving to John F. Kennedy. Lee steadies the rifle on the President’s car. Intercut with shots to look like the original footage. An amazing, tense sequence. Jake busts in and distracts Lee, enough so that the President and his Secret Service escape unharmed.
Now, though, Jake and Sadie are trapped in there with Oswald, who stalks them still with rifle in hand. “I‘m gonna make my mark on this world,” he raves at Jake. Hand to hand, they fight. That is until Jake’s forced to shoot him in the chest. So, one way or another, the past was going to kill Lee. Whether it was Jake or Jack Ruby, didn’t matter. Worse yet Sadie took a bullet. She is one tough customer. But maybe not tough enough to survive this one.
This puts Jake in custody. Not a perfect situation for a time traveler. He’s now finding himself pinned with being the one to have taken the shots. He’s going down or all of it. What a nasty turn of events for the past to take.
So now we’re seeing the mysterious FBI Agent James B. Hosty (Gil Bellows) again. He is taking part in the interrogation of Jake Epping, as well as Captain Will Fritz (Wilbur Fitzgerald). So Jake lays out the story about Lee, talking about his supposed intentions to kill the President. For the moment it seems as if Jake is up against the wall here.
Then once Hosty is alone with Jake, things appear differently. Outwardly, to anyone in the know like Hosty, it looks like Jake is a spy – two houses, no apparent identity “prior to 1960“, and lots more. Using the present knowledge of past events to his advantage, time traveler Jake keeps an edge on Hosty.
And from nowhere, JFK calls to speak with Jake. He thanks Jake, saying they owe him “their lives” – even Jackie gets on the line to say her peice. An emotional, very real moment for a mini-series involving time travel. But there’s always been a human element to its drama.
Hosty: “Far be it for me to pull the thread on the story of a hero, if I did the whole thing would unravel. God knows this country wants a hero. An American hero, who saved the President‘s life and values his privacy. That‘s how our story‘s gonna go.”
With some cash in his pocket Jake moves on. He buys a ticket elsewhere.
Then in the station he sees a woman reading From Here to Eternity. It’s Sadie, sitting quietly by herself. Except it’s not. Only another mirage, sadly.
Jake gets himself to Lisbon, Maine. But things are troubling him. So he heads through the time portal. He finds the diner leveled. In fact, everything nearby is rubble. Far as the eye can see. Has changing the past really destroyed so much?
Another Stephen King Easter Egg – CAPTAIN TRIPS is spray painted on a wall in the background, as Jake first discovers the new present in a state of apocalypse. Is this the world where the disease of the same name has riddled the world with sickness, death, and madness? Hmm.
Jake encounters someone briefly in the street, though, it’s an awkward encounter to say the least. Obviously something’s happened, and if he were around he’d know. But the place is an absolute mess. Everything is rundown and deserted, abandoned, falling apart. People wander the road. Jake ends up finding Harry Dunning (Leon Rippy), saving him from some marauders. He remembers Jake being the one to have killed his father, saving their family. Time has been changed and thrown for a loop because Jake went ahead and changed the trajectory. He asks Harry about a ton of events, even 9/11 – none of it happened. Turns out that in 1975 there were Kennedy Refugee Camps where “bad things” happened. Nothing got any better. “You don‘t understand this world,” Harry tells Jake.
So with all the disappointment of time travel, Jake sets off headed for the portal once more. All is reset, even down to the clumsy mailman. But he sees Sadie riding in a car, running off towards her. What’s his plan now? Will he live in the world again from the 1960s onward and not change anything?
He starts off trying to introduce himself to Sadie, but then in the door appears the Yellow Card Man (Kevin J. O’Connor). He tries to warn Jake about the perils, as he already did, of getting stuck in a “loop” and how it always “ends the same“, never stopping.
In the end, Jake decides to let Sadie go. He chooses the harder thing instead of the easy thing he wants to do. So tough, but perhaps better in the end. At least for her.
Back in the diner, present day, Jake finds 2016 restored to its proper state.
He goes back to teaching, to his normal life. But of course it’ll never be the same again. Not after all he’s experienced. When Harry shows up again to say he didn’t his promotion, Jake weeps in his arms, saying sorry for not helping. This scene broke me. Such a sad thing to see the burden of all these moments come down on Jake.
At home, he searches Sadie on the internet. She’s receiving a Texas Woman of the Year award. Now older and on in years, Miz Sadie looks marvelous, and Jake watches on as the woman he fell in love with is a completely other person than in his past. Another emotional scene to see Jake having to watch the life he didn’t get to live. Older Sadie even talks of Deke Simmons, too. I loved this scene so much. Really powerful, beautiful few moments that resonate deeply. Classic King-type stuff.
When Jake asks the older Sadie to dance, he chats lovingly with her and flashes back to his dances with the younger Sadie, all at the same time. Through time, something connects between them.
Sadie: “Who are you?”
Jake: “Someone you knew in another life”
I loved the finish to this mini-series. Yes, it’s sort of like the journey to try and save JFK was all for nothing. It was. Although, Jake learned a valuable lesson, and that is the fact the past may not need to be changed. What happens happens. No need to change it because we’ll never know the effects of those decisions.
A solid King adaptation I enjoyed. Most of the episodes were incredible. Lots of thrills, few chills, and a ton of great acting.
Episode 7: “Soldier Boy”
Directed by James Kent
Written by Bridget Carpenter
* For a review of the previous episode, “Happy Birthday, Lee Harvey Oswald” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Day in Question” – click here
The penultimate chapter begins, with Jake Epping (James Franco) having been left in bad shape at the end of last episode, as well as Bill Turcotte (George MacKay) being committed to a mental ward.
Seventeen days before the assassination of JFK, we find Jake coming in and out of consciousness. He sees Anderson Cooper on the television, a man on his iPhone. All these modern things. Then his ex-wife. Even Al Templeton (Chris Cooper) appears as the doctor. “I know this isn‘t real, I just want it to stop,” plead Jake. “Sometimes we don‘t get what we want,” replies Al. He expresses disappoint over the entire mission. The whole thing is nightmarish. Once things settle down, there’s Sadie Dunhil (Sarah Gadon) and Deke Simmons (Nick Searcy). But as Jake puts it: “Everything‘s mixed up.” Will the past take a toll on Jake, or is this simply a bump in the road?
Al: “You‘re not the man I thought you were”
Worst of all, Jake’s memory is troubled. His brains are all jumbled. There’s even a great little joke by the writers, as Jake asks whether the man he worked with was named George; in fact, the name of the actor playing Bill. Love it. But feel terrible for Jake and his poor brain.
Meanwhile, Lee Harvey Oswald (Daniel Webber) is out to talk with an agent of the FBI. He’s concerned about the bug in his home. But nobody takes him seriously. Likely part of why he gets crazier and crazier.
With Jake and his memory all mashed, he missed the passing of Mimi. So sad, even sadder for Deke. But after a few moments, Jake starts to get bits of memory back. He remembers “where Bill is“, and oh… is it ever a nasty place, the darkened mental ward of a hospital in the early 1960s – a place for “people who can‘t pay“, a proper dungeon. They go to find him. His mind is almost no better off than Jake’s, though, it comes as a result of being subjected to psychiatric treatments that only served to make people worse decades ago.
But before they can take him away from the hospital, Bill slides out a window and plummets to the parking lot below.
For her part, Sadie tries to help Jake remember his mission. She breaks out newspapers touting JFK’s tour of Texas cities coming up soon, she brings up the Russian on those tapes in his basement. He gets a little frustrated, but Sadie’s determined to keep him on track. A good, loyal woman. A loving one.
In other parts of Texas, there’s Lee and his mother Marguerite (Cherry Jones). They have a nice relationship. She clearly loves her son, and doesn’t want him mixed up with anything crazy. Any sane mother would worry about her child, if her child were spouting out the things Lee thinks. Leading up to the assassination, it’s creepy to see them together. Not sure why. Even creepier still is Lee sitting on a park bench, enjoying a Babe Ruth. Almost like seeing some odd, rare, dangerous animal in the midst of the forest. When he spies a newspaper about Kennedy in Texas, even mapping out where the President will be going, an idea dawns in him; a purpose. What a powerful moment. The way it’s filmed is full of weight. Plus, Webber plays Oswald incredibly well.
But still, while the grimness lingers on, life goes on, too. Jake finds his memory slipping back in slices. He remembers living on Madison Street, the old place where he and Bill shacked up. Slowly, they retrace his steps. And then they run into Lee Harvey Oswald himself. What a turn of events! And more memories come back to Jake, all of Oswald, after he spies a newspaper in a pile, a pro-communist paper called The Worker. Excellent scene, especially the editing. But this whole twist, to send Jake back there recovering his memory, it’s a real treat.
Marina (Lucy Fry) and Lee have all but grown completely apart. This does nothing to help his deterioration. With Jake remembering now, is it fast enough to get the job done? Having Sadie alongside, Jake certainly has a leg up on things. They weasel their way into the garage of Marina’s friend, looking for the equipment Lee will use to kill JFK. No such luck in finding anything, though.
Only twelve hours left. Jake and Sadie do what they can to prepare for what will come next. And then the past starts to come out, pushing back against Jake. All of a sudden the Yellow Card Man (Kevin J. O’Connor) is in the car with him. Everything is eerie, strange now, with the man telling him a story, recounting how he “can‘t stop the past“, and weeping. It’s a sad and tragic exchange, as the man reveals his daughter drowned, and that he keeps repeating it, trying to save her but only watching the past repeat itself. He warns Jake. Then he’s gone again.
While Jake wants to abandon the plan, Sadie urges on, not wanting him to give up. She is his rock. But the past continues to push, not letting Jake start his car in the morning. So it begins. Because at home, Lee is upright, alert, ready to do whatever it is in his mind to do next. He leaves Marina in bed with something long, wrapped in paper under his arm.
We watch the final scene and find Lee setting up, in the window at the Book Depository. He looks chilling, a sentinel on high.
Amazing. Looking forward to the finale of this amazing mini-series, “The Day in Question”, which should hopefully nicely cap off these 8 episodes. Stay with me, folks!
Episode 6: “Happy Birthday, Lee Harvey Oswald”
Directed by John David Coles
Written by Bridget Carpenter
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Truth” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Soldier Boy” – click here
Back in time again for another episode with Jake Epping (James Franco) traipsing around the early 1960s with his sidekick Bill Turcotte (George MacKay), falling in love with Sadie Dunhill (Sarah Gadon).
After the events of “The Truth”, we move forward six months to October of 1963. Lee Harvey Oswald (Daniel Webber) is applying for a job at the Texas School Book Depository, trying his best to charm the boss. And damned if he doesn’t get hired. Outside, a man talks to him, Oswald suspects he’s FBI (Stephen King adaptation-alum Gil Bellows) and starts getting a little squirrely. Even further, it seems Marina (Lucy Fry) and Lee are separated. He goes to see her, trying to impress her in order to get her back at home. But nothing is working. Her friend Ruth (Miranda Calderon) tells Lee, “give her time“, only there may not be a ton of time left for Oswald, not if he’s planning on doing what Jake and Bill think he’s about to do.
The time traveling self-appointed detective Jake doesn’t stick around with Bill a whole lot anymore. He’s busy looking after Sadie. Meanwhile, Bill is getting stir crazy. At the same time, though, George de Mohrenschildt (Jonny Coyne) is back to see Lee, piquing the interest of the pair and their recording equipment. But they don’t get much before George leaves. Seems maybe there’s a bit of confusion about. “If we don‘t alter his life, we‘re fine,” says Jake – not knowing about Bill and his interactions with both Marina and Lee himself. Bill lashes out at his friend, but it’s likely he may have altered history slightly enough to fuck it all up. Is that possible? For now, Jake figures if they don’t soon sort it all out, they’ll have to abduct Oswald when President John F. Kennedy is in Dallas during November. Most important, Bill and Jake are at odds quite a bit lately.
At home, Sadie is resting with the company of Deke Simmons (Nick Searcy) who implores Jake to “make an honest woman” of her. Jake’s letting more and more of the future slip to Sadie, as well as his plans to help her with the surgery necessary to heal her face. With her in on his time traveling, the upcoming shooting of JFK, this gives the plot a nice new twist, which takes it forward a bit. I also love that we’ve jumped six months because it skips the whole initial shock of Sadie getting used to the fact her new man is from the future. It allows the storytelling to go on without too many bumps.
In other news, Mimi (Tonya Pinkins) found out she’s got a tumour the “size of a lemon” and that there may not be much hope. Yet she keeps her chin up. For his part, Jake is upset: “I wish you‘d call me Jake. I wish you‘d told me sooner.” Mimi doesn’t weep, instead she instructs him on what to do after she’s gone; a couple favours. A beautiful, emotional, well-written and acted scene. Real full of impact.
Mimi: “Deke and I have spent our lives next to one another, not with one another.”
Trying to rake in the cash, Jake places more bets. He’s stockpiling for Sadie and her surgery, as well as any money he’ll need going forward with his mission. At the little flop house Jake listens in on a party at the Oswald residence, plenty of Russian accents and such. But worst of all? He hears Bill meet with Marina.
Now they’re getting much too closer to Lee and his family. Bill’s up there partying, drinking, laughing with Lee, all the guests. It really has Jake on edge, making him pretty damn (and rightfully) angry. Turcotte thinks he’s somehow making things better, but Jake reassures: “You mess with the past it messes back.” Even Mohrenschildt arrives, too. During a bit of an argument, Jake and Bill knock over a lamp, which reveals the recording device the detective pairing hooked up. Except it all makes Lee go a bit wild, spewing paranoia, before trashing his apartment in front of all the guests. Uh. Oh. Not only that, Bill and Jake have major trouble happening between them, especially after the latter sees his supposed partner in crime kissing Oswald’s wife outside the apartment. This starts a bit of a fight, more blind ignorance from Bill: “I‘m not tryin‘ to save anyone, that‘s over.” He even threatens Jake with outing the whole operation to Oswald.
Lee: “Land of the Free? Home of the Brave? This is such a crock of shit!”
Oswald goes for a bit of target practice while Jake is off frantically trying to determine his next move, and also getting Sadie up to Parkland so she can see a doctor. Cute bit of dialogue here, as Sadie won’t believe Jake when he says people walk around “with their phones in their hands” constantly.
And out of nowhere? The Yellow Card Man (Kevin J. O’Connor). And Jake worries something’s about to go terribly wrong. When he tries to fight against the past, the past fights back. Or is it the doing of the Yellow Card Man? None of the doors will open. The fire alarm won’t set off. Nothing works as it should. He manages to get in and stop the surgery: “She wasn‘t getting any oxygen,” one of the surgeons notes dramatically. Just in time.
Continually, Jake keeps his eye on the buddy-buddy pair of Lee and Bill. And now he worries about the “second shooter” – is this how it happens? Well either way Jake tells Bill about Marina at the hospital, supposedly having the baby alone, calling for her new lover. Rather, there’s no baby coming. Jake is having his old friend committed to the hospital, in order to head off what may possibly happen because of Bill’s relationship with Lee. Of course it helps that, when Bill freaks out, the talk of Jake being “from the future” and such makes the guy seem absolutely batshit crazy. It doesn’t fully sit well with Jake. Although, it must be done; for the greater good(?).
Jake tails Mohrenschildt, almost strangling him in his car. He interrogates George re: Lee Harvey Oswald. Jake poses as some sort of shadowy government official, saying he knows about “Haiti” and other particulars. Sneaky, sneaky, Mr. Epping. Such an excellently savage little scene. Above all, it’s interesting that George seemingly knows nothing of Oswald and the assassination plan on JFK; we get a quick cut back to Al Templeton (Chris Cooper) discussing with Jake how to go about figuring things out. And it is obvious: no way out but to kill Oswald. He’s a lone wolf, or so it appears. Oh, and plus – Jake asks Sadie to marry him, over the telephone from a shitty little booth. It’s the thought that counts.
Sadie: “Tell me one more thing about the future”
Jake: “In the future we‘re married”
Sadie: “I like the sound of that”
Sweet thoughts are cut off quick. Jake finds himself being chased by a crew of men led by the one who took his bet earlier. He ran around making a lot of bets. Turns out, they’re all under the one guy’s belt. Even worse than that, Bill made bets against Jake’s better judgement, and made things pretty damn terrible. Jake takes a rough beating, including a good pistol whip, and then gets left in an alley. He is one hell of a mess.
Waking up, Jake sees flashing lights, he catches glimpses of Sadie’s face, someone else (his former wife Christy; from the future). Is the past taking its toll on him? Is it wrecking his mind as it once did to Al via cancer? We’ll find out more soon.
Stay with me folks. Next episode is the penultimate “Soldier Boy”, and ought to give us more wild, exciting progressions like this one did. Loving this series, such a solid and interesting adaptation of King.
Episode 5: “The Truth”
Directed by James Franco
Written by Joe Henderson
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Eyes of Texas” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Happy Birthday, Lee Harvey Oswald” – click here
Back in time once more this week with Jake Epping a.k.a George Amberson (James Franco) and his trusty sidekick Bill Turcotte (George MacKay) in the early 1960s.
Last we left Jake, he’d discovered Sadie Dunhill (Sarah Gadon) snooping around the recording equipment. She even heard some nasty little recordings of all the dirty details – that is, a bit of sex between Lee Harvey Oswald (Daniel Webber) and his wife Marina (Lucy Fry). What’s about to happen now in this latest episode, properly titled “The Truth”?
Sadie tries to run away, disgusted with Jake. He does his darnedest to explain, saying they were “Russian actors” in a play. But she knows there’s something more. He says it’s about her protection, yet that’s not going to be good enough. This has divided them impossibly for now. The token of her feelings, a dish of food, sits on the table still, reminding Jake of her. So he tosses it.
Flashback to Jake in the classroom, in present day. He asks his class about “traveling back in time“, what they might do. Suggestions for killing Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Saddam Hussein, so on.
Switch back to ’63. Jake’s getting let go from his job by Principal Deke Simmons (Nick Searcy), due to a “moral clause” in the contract he signed. The “Russian filth” did him no good. Either way, it’s sad to see him go. Certainly Mimi (Tonya Pinkins) doesn’t like it either.
Back to present. Al Templeton (Chris Cooper) and Jake talk about Oswald more, and whether Al saw him shoot at General Walker. Al never lasted long enough, so now it’s in Jake’s hands.
In ’63, Jake and Bill sit on Oswald more. They need to see if Oswald is alone, or whether something larger is at play. Or someone completely different altogether. “Is it bad I‘m rootin’ for Lee to hit the guy?” Bill asks. The time is set, they’re ready to spy on what happens “according to history“, to see what fate has in store for them. I love the plot because it takes people right through researching a conspiracy theory, or possibly through what may have actually happened.
Jake: “It doesn‘t matter why he shoots. All that matters is if he shoots.”
The investigative duo try to prepare for every possible mishap on the day. Working against the past and its way may prove difficult at important turns. For his part, Bill’s curious about what happens afterwards. None of that is on Jake’s mind; only the job at hand. Nonetheless, Bill isn’t overly thrilled about staying in the past once Jake leaves. He seems to push too hard at times, though, overall is a good man. And he also has nothing keeping him anywhere, such is how he ended up with Jake to begin with, so I can understand his frustration with his life situation when traveling to the future could be accomplished.
With Sadie on her own, it looks like she may have someone following close by. Is it the sadomasochistic ex-husband Johnny Clayton (T.R. Knight)? Very likely.
On the phone, Jake gets a call from none other than Johnny himself. He’s with Sadie, and she looks in rough shape with what looks like a pillowcase on her head, blood seeping through.
Jake leaves Bill to their business. He rushes to Sadie’s place fast as his feet can move.
Inside, Johnny’s been a bad boy. He has Jake sit at the table, Sadie still with her bloody covering. Once Johnny removes it, we see her face, what he’s been busy doing: “She‘s not really pretty anymore,” he whispers to Jake. He taunts them both, calling his ex-wife a “dirty little bird” and such (reminiscent of other psychotic characters from Stephen King such as in Misery). This is one of the creepiest scenes yet. Knight gives it his all as Clayton, making you cringe and squirm a little in the seat. There’s a quiet, subtle madness about him that you feel might erupt at any moment. Johnny eventually serves up a bit of bleach for Jake to drink. And then Sadie enacts a plan for their hopeful escape. With some taunting of her own Sadie keeps Johnny busy. Until a doorbell rings.
Sadie: “All this because I told him your dirty little secret? Well I didn‘t even tell him about your grandmother. She liked to wash you, didn‘t she? She washed you real good. How old were you? Twelve? No, thirteen. They took her away because of you.”
Clever cut to Bill at the door of Marina Oswald. Uh oh. They share more cigarettes together while Lee is sleeping. How far will he risk Lee catching them, or becoming too suspicious of Bill, and in turn Jake? Right now, love is blinding Bill. And Lee wakes up, discovering them on the steps. This brings Bill too close to the situation. “Have you ever read any Karl Marx?” Lee questions: “You read it and then we‘ll talk.” He hands over a copy of Marx on Economics. “It tells the truth,” says Lee. For the time being, the investigation is safe.
Cut back to the Clayton situation. At the door are two students with stuff from a raffle. He tries to get the kids away fast. After that he tosses the bleach in Johnny’s face, blinding him. This sends Clayton, blurry eyed, shooting bullets around the room in a rage before Jake is forced to bury a fire poker in his temple. For good measure, Sadie shoots him. A brutal and tense scene.
Police are on the scene quickly. An ambulance carts Sadie off, leaving Jake to ponder what follows. Trying to get away from police questioning, Jake is saved by Deke, who shows up out of nowhere. Seems he’s as happy as anyone to have Clayton dead. The cops get a statement from Jake later, quite an honest one, too. It’s as if the town is merely hoping for Sadie to pull through, with students and even Deke offering to give blood.
Meanwhile, Bill is on the case by himself. Nine o’clock strikes and there he is, waiting for Lee to appear around General Walker’s office window; somewhere, anywhere. But then coming out of the nearby church, Bill believes he sees his sister Clara. He chases her before realizing it’s, obviously, not her. In his absence, the shot goes off. Who was it?
Flashbacks again to Al, his advice for Jake heading into the past: “If you get too close, you forget what you came for.” A fact Jake’s already realizing, much too heavily. And then Walker shows up with a gunshot wound to his arm. Jake watches on darkly. He calls Bill, who has no good news. He’s got his own demons haunting him, as well.
Goods news? Sadie isn’t dead, she’ll just have a bad scar. After she sees Jake again, he reveals more of himself, giving her the titular truth. Their bond becomes closer now after such a terrifying ordeal.
Looking forward to more next week with “Happy Birthday, Lee Harvey Oswald” – sure to bring more excitement, more revelation, more twists and turns. Stay with me, folks.
Episode 4: “The Eyes of Texas”
Directed by Fred Toye
Written by Bridget Carpenter
* For a review of previous episode, “Other Voices, Other Rooms” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Truth” – click here
Back in the past again! Jake Epping (James Franco) and Bill Turcotte (George MacKay) are hard at work trying to crack into the big mystery of Lee Harvey Oswald (Daniel Webber) and the enigma that is his life.
We start now watching Oswald with his rifle. He times himself putting it together, piece by piece, screw by screw. He cheers himself on slightly as he works. “You‘re in the Marines now, son,” Lee says to himself: “Let‘s see it.” Clearly, he is preparing himself for something important. Then he begins the entire exercise all over again, starting with taking the thing apart this time. Or is it just Marine behaviour? Either way, he stops what he’s doing to go tend to his crying child. “I‘m going to hunt fascists,” Lee tells his wife Marina (Lucy Fry) and George de Mohrenschildt (Jonny Coyne) who take the famous picture of him with his gun in the backyard.
Across the way, Jake and Bill watch closely. They never miss a beat. But Bill has a little more than surveillance on his mind, which catches the gaze of Marina slightly. Could this come to be something more? A problem?
At school, Jake is getting closer to Sadie Dunhill (Sarah Gadon). However, not everyone is too keen on him doing so, which brings up a conversation on “discretion” with the overly-involved principal.
Back at the house, Bill plays Jake a recording – the first in English from Lee and George, suggesting an attempt on General Walker’s life, plus mentions of the CIA, et cetera, all under wraps. Plenty of conspiracy theorizing between Jake and Bill. Nevertheless, they determine a need to follow them both. Not without a little arguing first, though. Out of nowhere, Ms. Mimi Corcoran (Tonya Pinkins) arrives at their door – she claims Jake is not who he says. Seems she’s “investigated” Jake, his degree, past addresses and so on. More wrenches being thrown in the works. At the same time, Ms. Corcoran doesn’t appear to be throwing Jake to the dogs either. He reveals his real name, claiming to have been put in “Witness Proection… in 1959“, then laying out talk of Mafia except he uses The Godfather as his fairytale plot. Hilarious scene, Franco plays it out so perfectly.
Mimi: “For some of us, dignity matters.”
Jake decides on using that discretion mentioned earlier. He invites Sadie out to a little getaway, in order to reveal his true self. Or that’s how it seems. And outside, it also seems someone may be watching Jake.
Meanwhile, Bill is getting a little too close to Marina Oswald. The smile on his face makes clear he’s got a shine for her. Not only are they pushing against the past, they’re slowly getting too involved with people in it. Certainly liable to spell disaster along the road.
Over at the cabin, Sadie has slight suspicions about Jake, that he may not be fully divulging the truth about himself, who he is. “I feel like I‘m an impostor in my own life, everyone thinks I‘m one thing, but I‘m something else,” Jake explains to her: “But I don‘t want to be that way.” Before he can go any further, Jake notices an envelope on the floor by the door. It contains pictures of them through the window, someone spying from outside. Creepy, foreboding moment. This sends Jake into a frenzy, as he and Sadie have to leave. Quick. Jake tells Bill he believes it’s the CIA trying to tell them “back off” – Bill advises leaving Sadie, though, Jake’s not thrilled on that idea.
Heading into a shady building, George and Lee are followed closely, quietly by Jake and Bill. They believe it could be George introducing Oswald to CIA contacts. Inside, the place is a lounge, a whore house, a bar; all in one. Music plays, drinks flow. Jake tries to figure out what’s really going on, as Bill gets jealous and angry because Lee has a woman that isn’t his wife hanging off him. Uh oh. But they continue their little mission, doing the best they can to keep track of Oswald and Mohrenschildt.
Jake goes upstairs with a young lady sporting a wonderfully Southern drawl – “I don‘t do nothin‘ standin‘ up on account of my bad leg,” she explains while they work their way towards a room. Yet Jake’s more interested in spying on his two targets. He ends up causing a commotion after breaking one of the girl’s shoes. That is, before the police bring a raid down, and Jake is caught up then taken to the station. This puts him in a position where the principal at his school has to bail him out; definitely not impressed now.
This brings Jake back to school, without a chance to wash, or change his clothes. He witnesses a quick moment between the principal and Mimi, the latter having some sort of coughing fit. Is there trouble for Ms. Corcoran? I’d hate to think so, she is a wonderful woman. Also, there’s Sadie receiving a visit from her ex-husband Johnny Clayton (T.R. Knight), which doesn’t appear too happy. Jake tries to help comfort Sadie afterwards, but there’s more going on: Johnny won’t give her a divorce, tracking her down in the town of Jodie after she left. A loaded situation, between Jake’s situation and hers, each with their own tricky complexities. Added to that, Johnny is not a normal man; he has strange, unnatural desires, as well as a heavy hand for his wife.
News from Bill, as Lee and George are on the move. They’re preparing to follow the two men separately; Jake on George, Bill on Lee. At the house, Bill is forced to listen in on the Oswalds having sex, which drives him mad. He feels too much for Marina, which is sooner or later going to cause an issue. But as for Jake, he’s trailed George to a loading dock, and tries to pick up on what’s being discussed, as George meets with some suited men near the back.
And then, Johnny Clayton shows up to talk with Jake, surprising him. Turns out, Johnny’s been doing a bit of trailing on his own. It was Clayton who took the photographs of Jake and Sadie: “You‘ve been bad,” he warns Epping. Still, Jake has his own threats and makes his point clear. Unfortunately, Johnny believes Sadie is his property, that he owns her. This Clayton is an eerie character, with the clothespin thing and all; an undercover sadomasochistic man in the early 1960’s. More to come from this awkwardly tense encounter, no doubt.
Immediately after, Jake heads with flowers and chocolates to see Sadie. He talks about how things can get “messy” and “broken“, but that he “loves everything” about her. They’ve connected. Despite Al Templeton (Chris Cooper) warning him, Jake has gone and gotten involved with somebody deeply in the past.
Bill’s at home drinking, clearly upset, and also fed up with the Russian talk. When Jake gets home, upstairs a commotion starts when Lee is obviously beating on his wife. Then suddenly, silence. This situation is brewing into a rocky relationship for Bill and Jake. Making matters worse, Bill continually injects himself into Marina’s life. He tries consoling her outside on the steps, which leads to the two of them becoming closer, even just a little.
Next day at school, Mimi is out sick. Worse, Sadie receives a note claiming Jake is not who he claims; though, she hides it from Jake. The note came along with divorce papers, which Johnny signed and delivered. Will we see more of Clayton disrupting the life of Jake? I’m sure of it.
A renewal of trust comes for Bill, as Jake lets it be known he couldn’t make the journey through the past without him. They’re back on the same page, mostly. And that’s the best thing for them both.
The finale of this episode brings a devastating scene. Sadie heads to see Jake, food in hand. Only Jake’s nowhere to be found. The place is dark and totally quiet. Then, she finds recordings of the Russian chats, the surveillance on Oswald and his wife. Particularly, she hears the moaning and lovemaking. Very suspicious indeed: “Who are you?” she desperately asks Jake, as the credits cut in.
Can’t wait for the next episode, “The Truth”, which promises lots of fun and excitement again. Excellent one again this week. Solid adaptation all around.
Episode 3: “Other Voices, Other Rooms”
Directed by James Strong
Written by Brian Nelson
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Kill Floor” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Eyes of Texas” – click here
Following the events of “The Kill Floor”, 11.22.63 continues with Jake Epping (James Franco) driving Bill Turcotte (George MacKay), trying to explain to him how a newspaper from 1963 showed up in 1960. Jake attempts to tell him about the whole mission with which he was tasked by Al Templeton (Chris Cooper). He reveals being from 2016. That’d blown your mind if you were in ’60, that’s for sure. Poor Bill has got no clue what’s going on, though, I’m willing to bet he’s about to dive in head first.
At a motel, Jake continues explaining the complexities of his time travel situation. Bill tries his best to understand the complicated in-and-outs, but keeps holding a gun to Jake, demanding proof of his being from the future. Then he wants Jake to go back and save his sister. Jake’s got to further explain how he can only get back to October 21st, 1960. That’s the only way back, as far as it goes.
Flashes of the Dunning house, the near massacre, keeps coming back to Jake. He accidentally strangles Bill coming out of a waking nightmare. Things get even more on edge than they were. But despite all odds, Jake has a new travel companion in Bill, who seems unwilling yet simultaneously wanting to believe in the whole story. Now, we move to Dallas, as Jake starts explaining the future situation of JFK’s assassination; the Grassy Knoll, the book depository, all that.
Jake: “What I wouldn‘t give for a mini–bar right now?”
Bill: “A what?”
Jake the writer, like Stephen King, finds himself a teaching position. This gives him a reason for hanging around and awaiting the coming events. Afterwards, Jake and Bill head out to celebrate in Dallas. Of course, Bill gets a bit wild. At the bar, up shows Jack Ruby (Antoni Corone) – “Looks like you‘ve seen a ghost,” Jack laughs when Jake gives him a strange stare. Interesting to watch him in the past coming up against people he knows, himself being from the future and all. There’s this strange reverse sense of deja-vu. Very cool, very weird for Jake.
Engaging with everyone around him, Mr. Amberson takes up his post at school. He doesn’t vibe well with the racial politics, first asking the black secretary if she’d like a cup of coffee; this pauses everyone nearby, not understand why he’d do such a thing. It’s 1960 – duh, Jake. So silly to watch from our perspective, and Jake’s, as those of us not born and living during that time in the Southern U.S. can’t comprehend how people would be so cold. But Jake does get along with his students, something which hasn’t changed from 2016 to 1960. He gets by as best he can, anyways.
Finally, Jake is reunited with Sadie Dunhill (Sarah Gadon) – she’s the new school librarian. She does remember him after awhile. Even better, they get shackled to chaperoning a dance at the school. A natural romance is beginning to brew. But like Al warned: not wise to get close to people, it may get messy.
Bill and Jake follow Oswald around via a timeline of where he was in those periods. They wind up in a rundown, “mixed race neighbourhood” where the word “niggers” gets tossed around easily, without a thought. The pair get themselves an apartment across from where Oswald will be moving in.
Running into the secretary from school, Miss Corcoran (Tonya Pinkins), Jake finds her unable to buy gas from a station. She walked miles to get there and is refused service by the attendant. He claims she can buy gas in her own neighbourhood. “Why don‘t you shut your fucking mouth?” Jake yells at the man loudly, grabbing a can for some gas, then tossing bills at him walking away. Definitely bought him some points with her, which may prove to be helpful down the road in some way. For now, it’s just a moral gesture.
At the airport, Lee Harvey Oswald (Daniel Webber) arrives home from Russia after supposedly defecting. His disdain for the U.S.A is clear already. Jake is following nearby, too, as expected. He and Bill continue their mission, ordering up surveillance equipment. This is like a period piece throwback, with a technician (who incidentally served with Gen. Walker) explaining all sorts of different pieces they can use to spy from afar; all under the guise of being for Jake’s hopeful divorce.
The school dance is full swing. Jake and Sadie try policing things, including all the booze being sneaked in. They decide to “inspect” the punch that the jocks clearly spiked. A nice little romantic segue for these two characters, getting closer, learning more of one another. Only Jake is playing with fire. Will he realize that before it’s too late? Doubtful.
Skipping out on the dance, Jake heads back with Bill to start setting up the Oswald apartment for broadcast, so they can hear everything going on inside the house. They find themselves interrupted when Oswald returns. On their sneaky escape through the attic, Bill puts his hand in a nest of spiders and freaks out. This causes Oswald to go on alert. But they make it out luckily.
Inside Oswald’s place, the surveillance bugs start working. Success for the fumbling team. Their Oswald mission is officially underway with everything up and running. And this is the beginning of Jake living a double life; he forgot to go back to the school dance, as he promised Sadie before running off to attend to the Oswald project. Sadie isn’t too pleased the next day, nor is Ms. Corcoran. Such is the price of trying to change the course of history.
One of the following days, George de Mohrenschildt (Jonny Coyne) arrives at Oswald’s place. “This could be the start of the whole thing,” Jake tells Bill. Only problem is they’re speaking Russian almost constantly. This does nothing for them, and throws a wrench into Jake’s plans. Great addition, both to the book and the series. Makes things much more interesting. I guess at least they’ll hear the name Walker if it’s thrown out there. Everything else is out the window, unless Jake can track down a Russian-English dictionary, which he does soon as possible. When he comes back, Bill is knocked out on the floor, bloody nose and all. Some of the junkie-type guys from outside the building downstairs stole everything. Jake and Bill pose as FBI to get their machinery back, but the tapes are all done for pretty much.
Things are looking up for Jake on the romance end of things – Sadie wants to move fast, she kisses him and pretty much sets up their date. Again, Jake doesn’t realize these are things which will be hard when the time comes to either leave, or possibly worse. Who knows.
At a Sisters of Southern Heritage meeting, Jake and Bill attend, spying Oswald with de Mohrenschildt. Curiouser and curiouser. Particularly seeing as how General Edwin Walker (Gregory North) is speaking at the podium. Things are getting more murky by the minute. Outside, Oswald causes a commotion and then gets beat on by a few officers. Lee makes a massive scene, calling Walker a “fascist” and claiming: “I have something to say! Wake up! Wake up, you fucking fascist. Or I will kill you. I will fucking kill you.” Wow. Strong evidence towards the theory of Oswald, but is it what we’re meant to see? What the higher-ups want us to be seeing, as in the way history’s been shaped for us? We’ll have to dig deeper together. Let’s find out more.
Next episode is titled “The Eyes of Texas” and I cannot wait to see it. Stay tuned with me, fellow fans.
Episode 2: “The Kill Floor”
Directed by Frederick O.E. Toye
Written by Quinton Peeples
* For a review of the premiere, “The Rabbit Hole” – click here
* For a review of the following episode, “Other Voices, Other Rooms” – click here
After the the big premiere, 11.22.63‘s second episode begins with a young Harry Dunning (Jack Fulton) being bullied by a group of slightly older boys, led by Randy (Percy Hynes White). They treat him terribly, calling him “Harry Fairy” and stripping him of his pants, spitting in his face. Even people on the street seem to not care, as they see a half-naked Harry making his way home.
Meanwhile, Jake Epping (James Franco) is still roaming around in 1960. His plan, as of last episode, was to start small then work up to the big changes. First, Harry Dunning (Leon Rippy) and the murder of his family.
Jake’s hanging out at the store where little Harry takes refuge. Such a sweet kind of moment where Jake watches the young version of the man he teaches in the present. He talks with the owner, having a cup of coffee, and tries to figure out a place to stay. The owner directs Jake to the Price house, of Arliss and Edna (Michael O’Neill & Annette O’Toole). At their home, Jake introduces himself as George ‘Jake’ Amberson of course, and tries to get a room for a while. The Prices are good Christians, charging him in advance, making sure there are “no girls” and other such things. Strict living, but stricter the better; raising no suspicion is Jake’s best course of action. Plus, he’s too busy trying to figure out how to go about helping the Dunning family.
At a local watering hole, Jake inquires about Frank Dunning (Josh Duhamel). Nobody’s too quick to give up any information about the man. Not too long afterwards, Frank appears with a bunch of good ole boys there to tear the place up and get drunk. Even seeing Frank is foreboding, as we know exactly where his future is headed. The bartender lets Frank know about Jake looking for him, so naturally they end up at a table together. Drinks upon drinks have Jake quoting James Agee’s Let Us Now Praise Famous Men from 1941, then further make Frank think.
Jake’s in the car with Frank and his buddies a short time later. The situation starts to get tense, as Frank inquires how Jake supposedly knows him, questions are asked, and more nervousness seeps from the pores of the scene. In the dark, rainy night they pull up to a meat packing plant. The lights flicker inside; a sure sign of safe times ahead. “You like fun, don‘t you Jakey?” quips Frank. The twisted, sick side of Mr. Dunning comes out for us to see here, explaining the worst job at a meat plant involving old bloody parts, an entire universe of flies. Then he arrives at the titular killing floor, where they put cows to their end. The fellas bring one of them out for Jake to witness a kill. Apparently, it’s how they have fun. Certainly doesn’t say anything about them, now does it? Well they want Jakey to kill the cow, which doesn’t exactly sit well with him. So it’s left to Frank, who puts the cow down quick and easy, yet savage. “I guess some men just don‘t have what it takes,” exclaims Frank: “Do they boys?”
Disturbed by this event, Jake arrives at the Dunning home in the morning. He claims Doris (Joanna Douglas) and her family won a free trip. Obviously, this is part of a plan Jake is trying to enact, in order to save the Dunning family from their tragic fate, if time would have it. At the Price house, Jake hilariously claims to be a Korean War vet, using M*A*S*H as a cover because, y’know, time is on his side for that one. He and Arliss chat of “war heroes” and the atrocities of warfare, specifically World War II; the latter recounts when a friend’s scalp, or part of it, went down his own shirt during battle, fairly fucking grisly. Arliss goes on to talk about a sleeping German kid who he could’ve let live, but instead drowned; “afterwards, you always tell yourself there‘s a good reason,” he tells Jake. This whole story reflects on the earlier mention of Arliss and his Bronze Star, for bravely carrying his wounded comrade out of battle – certainly aren’t too many real heroes in any war, with all that human toll in context.
Jake: “Sometimes fate just steps in and deals you a good hand”
Out of the blue, Frank Dunning shows up at the Price residence. Edna isn’t too thrilled about unexpected callers at the door. Either way, Frank wants to “make it up to” Jake after their initial introduction, all that creepy slaughterhouse stuff.
The pair head down to Frank’s butcher shop. A nice little spot he operates. “It‘s my place, my rules,” says Frank: “It‘s rules that hold the universe together.” On and on he goes to Jake about rules, order. “A price must be paid to set things right,” Frank explains. He calls his wife out from the back with bruises on her face. So now, Frank thinks Jake is trying to have sex with Doris. Things are getting much messier than Jake ever anticipated. The Dunning situation has become incredibly complicated, now that he’s been discovered in this light.
So off Jake heads to find himself a gun. He tries to bribe his way into one at a shop. Although, the shop owner thinks he’s a bit shady. Rightfully so. Only she’s joking: “I’ll sell you five guns,” she laughs. Because it’s Texas. And Texas in 1960. How hard could it have been? And don’t you gun nuts try and sell me anything different. A great scene that adapts especially well for 2016, with all the rampant gun crime in America. Excellent writing on Stephen King’s part, as well as the translation to television in this episode by Quinton Peeples.
More flashing back to Al Templeton (Chris Cooper), frail and rundown. He keeps on explaining about the past pushing back against his travelling through time. The fact he didn’t have any cancer before discovering the rabbit hole speaks for itself, though. This is an ominous warning for Jake. Immediately after this we cut to him waking up and vomiting. Is it already affecting him? Is the past trying to make him sick to put him out of commission?
“Do you have any Gatorade?” asks Jake at a store, where he receives appropriate confusion. Kaopectate is what he gets. The stomach ailment will not stop him. Jake’s determined to change the Dunning past and future.
Appropriate time to say it – the cinematography here is so gorgeous and rich. A quick scene where Jake stands in a field, looking out onto the horizon becomes something beautiful; powerful, as well. Just the framing of Franco onscreen, the colours of the sky, everything looks so impressive. Good job on Hulu for producing this in such grand fashion. The story deserves it.
Spying on the Dunning house, Jake gets a knife pulled on him by Bill Turcotte (George MacKay) from the bar. Turns out that Bill’s siter was killed by Frank, too. He is a terrible man, as it seems. Looking out for Doris and the family, Bill appears fairly vigilant. Then Jake lets slip: “I‘m from the future.” Uh oh.
Bigger things require attention now. The horror inside has already begun. Frank slipped in the back door, as Jake squabbles with Bill outside for a moment. Heading in, Jake tries to re-route history. He fires a shot into Frank, but only catches his shoulder. Thus commences a brawl. Frank appears totally as a monster here, some Frankenstein lurching around and dominating everyone in his presence. Scary as hell, honestly. Duhamel does a good job at coming off brutal and vicious. But what follows? Sure makes a point for Jake being bad ass when he wants/needs to be. He’s able to change the future, but is it for the better? Can he tell what repercussions this event will have?
Jake makes it away, blood all over him. Even Edna Price sees him in a state, as he tries to make his case. But murder is murder, even protecting someone. Mostly, it’d be hard for Jake to explain how he ended up there, everything, being from the future and all, holding unknown knowledge to anyone in the past. Then the future is confirmed for Bill, who finds a clipping about the JFK assassination amongst Jake’s things. Ah ha! Belief. What will this bring?
Next episode, “Other Voices, Other Rooms”, ought to bring us more fun and excitement and foreboding eeriness. Great series up to this point.
Episode 1: “The Rabbit Hole”
Directed by Kevin Macdonald
Written by Bridget Carpenter
* For a review of the next episode, “The Kill Floor” – click here
The first episode of this Stephen King adaptation begins with Harry Dunning (Leon Rippy) telling us about his father killing his entire family. Except it’s him telling the story to a class full of people. The teacher is Jake Epping (James Franco), who gives his student Harry an A+ on the story. Jake seems like a personable man, getting along with his class quite well with ease.
Then Jake heads on over to a diner run by Al Templeton (Chris Cooper). They’ve also got a pretty good relationship. For his part, Al is a friendly dude himself. Up shows Christy (Brooklyn Sudano). Their relationship is a little less nice. Clearly heading into the rough of a full-on divorce. Already I love the adaptation of King’s novel – one of my favourites of his latest work – because Christy even makes a mention that, at the price, “that can‘t be real beef” in regards to one of Al’s famous burgers.
No sooner does Christy leave, Al stumbles out from behind the counter of the diner, coughing and looking nearly 20 years older than before. Jake’s stunned. He eventually helps Al home, but it’s clear the old guy has got some serious health problems happening – cancer, so he says. “You got cancer in five minutes?” Jake asks. But Al tells him to come back tomorrow, all will be explained.
Not only this well-filmed, I’m loving the score. Highly foreboding stuff. Hulu has done a solid job producing this show, which is evident even after the first little slice of an episode.
Al prepares to tell Jake everything. Only first, he asks Jake to go into the supply room closet at the back of the diner. Heading inside, further and further, all of a sudden Jake hits the ground on his stomach. He isn’t sure where, or when, the place might be. Running away, Jake ends up back inside the diner. He freaks, obviously. He asks Al what the fuck happened, to which the older of the two replies: “That was October 21st, 1960.” And it seems Al’s been trying to prevent the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Al goes on to explain all the actions and events associated with preventing the assassination – the Kennedy brothers would be alive, maybe prevent Vietnam, et cetera, et cetera. Well Jake isn’t sold on that theory. “You save Kennedy‘s life you make the world a better place,” Al yells. So to explain his theory about changing the past to alter the future, Al has Jake head into the closet again, back in time, and then carve something into the tree behind the diner. So Jake heads back in, and it’s always at the same exact moment in time during 1960, right to the second. He goes ahead and carves the tree with his knife before going back into the present. Once there, he heads down to the tree and the evidence is right there for him to find. Furthermore, Al explains everything “resets” each time you go down the rabbit hole, right back to that day. And no matter how much time you spend in there, only two minutes pass in the present; hence why Al looked fine one minute then haggard as hell the next. He spent two whole years in 1960, up to ’62, in the time Jake signed those papers for Christy. Now, it seems Al requires a successor to his task with all that ailing health.
Not only do we get fun time travel stuff, King provided plenty of fun information surrounding JFK and Lee Harvey Oswald. So here, Bridget Carpenter’s script gives us a nice lead-in to it with Al explaining things for Jake. Al saw him “come back from Russia in 1962” and couldn’t do anything; after all, did Oswald really do it? Well, Al wasn’t going ahead without everything squared away. The plan now is for Jake to go back in time, last until 1963 were Oswald may have supposedly taken a shot at General Edwin Walker, which would help with a theory on his culpability. But aside from the conspiracy stuff, Cooper and Franco have good chemistry. The way they talk together and with one another is like two people who know each other fairly well; I’m a fan of them both, anyways. Also, we finally get the scoop on Al’s famous burgers – they’re beef, from 1960. Great prices. Such a fun little bit of writing out of King, he always thinks of something other writers don’t and this is simply one small mention.
There’s a slight bit of tension between Al and Jake. The latter doesn’t want to just go jumping back in time on a whim. Al isn’t pleased, he thinks it’s an easy choice. But obviously, as anyone would, Jake doesn’t see it that way. “Get the fuck out of my house,” Al tells Jake after chastising him a bunch.
After sleeping on it, Jake heads back in the morning. He finds Al slumped in a chair, dead, or perhaps only passed out. Sad that their last words were an argument, but such is life sometimes. Maybe Al hasn’t died in this adaptation yet. We see Al’s knife on the table; it’s from Vietnam, obviously belonging to someone close to him (I doubt it would have been him serving). Perhaps a major reason why he wanted to try and change the JFK assassination. This cements Jake’s decision, as he heads over to the diner, and headlong into 1960.
Jake: “Okay, buddy. See you in two minutes.”
Again, as it was the last couple times, the Yellow Card Man (Kevin J. O’Connor) tells Jake: “You shouldn‘t be here.” This time, Jake just walks on and tries to ignore him.
I love seeing Jake in the middle of 1960. He looks incredibly out of place, from the facial hair, to the hair, to the clothes he’s wearing. When he goes to the barber, a King reference to “Castle Rock” comes out. Best of all, Jake gets himself suited up like a regular adult during 1960. Even more, the pie tastes better: “Everything tastes better,” Al says in a flashback. Better yet, it only costs sixty cents for a slice. Then there are people from the present whom Jake runs into in the past, their younger selves and people related to them, and so on.
After buying himself a car with the money Al collected in his travels to the past, Jake heads to try and make some more of it by placing a bet. He ends up in a bar where the car salesman sends him. Jake places a 35:1 bet, long shot on $100; of course that much blows everybody away, as if he’s from somewhere on another planet. A man named Little Eddie (Tony Munch) takes the action. He listens on the radio with Jake. At first things don’t go well for Epping, but soon his boxer makes a turnaround. The big bet pays off. Although, nobody there is too happy about it. Jake leaves, and a couple of the guys follow him outside. But off he goes, for the time being, to a motor court nearby. Nearly a dicey situation for ole Jake.
A little later, up shows somebody on Jake’s tail outside his room at the motor court. When the man heads inside, Jake fools him using a cellphone playing a modern video, knocks the guy out, and takes off. The Yellow Card Man almost sends him off the road, though. What a spooky dude, that one.
On a bridge, Jake tosses his cell. Probably best. Anything to keep him from being found out as an… outsider, we’ll say. And then off Jake goes, heading further towards his destination. On the way he sees signs for the Nixon campaign. He eats delicious corn, long before genetically modifying food became the thing to do. Hell, even the Coca-Cola likely tasted better. Moreover, Jake experiences the supposed good old days in all its racist glory – he makes his way to a bathroom before an old black man advises him it’s the wrong way; white bathrooms are the other way.
Finally, though, Jake arrives in Dallas, Texas. With a file folder in-tow, he finds the book depository from where the fatal JFK shot was fired. Here, he accidentally meets Sadie Dunhill (Sarah Gadon). They bond over John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, reading in general – then little references to From Here to Eternity and The Manchurian Candidate (Jake almost flubs on the last one talking about its movie adaptation; didn’t come along yet at this point in ’60). Clearly here is a love interest for Jake, possibly.
Jake poses as a writer, finding himself a bit of lodging at a house Al stayed during his previous trip. Love all the little bits about how time resets every trip into the rabbit hole, so the woman at the boarding house doesn’t remember Al. Slowly, Jake has to indoctrinate himself into this new world of skipping around space and time. For now, he sits down to review some of the “homework” Al gave him on his mission. The amazing writing of King is adapted well here. Great narration from Cooper’s Al while Jake is wandering around in 1960. Very King-esque, and almost reminds you of The Shawshank Redemption at times, just not in a copy-paste way. Rather, it’s a refreshing kind of nostalgic feel that the narration brings on at times.
Al: “If you do something that really fucks with the past, the past fucks with you.”
In a phone booth, Jake tries to call his father. Electrical failings in the booth and static over the phone prevent any contact. “The past doesn‘t want to be changed,” almost echoes from Al’s previous narrative monologue. Then, a car crashes right through the booth after Jake steps out. Problem solved. When Jake heads over to check the person in the crash, a bloody woman on the ground mumbles: “You shouldn‘t be here.” Just as the Yellow Card Man keeps on nagging. This sends Jake into a bit of a headspin.
We get some flashes back to Jake and Al, filling in pieces of the Oswald backstory. In ’60, Jake tries his best to start in on the investigation. Still, two years separate him from when Oswald arrives from Russia to the States again, then another year before he takes a shot at General Walker. Lots of time for Jake to hang around, almost too much. In the meantime, Jake sits in on a speech by JFK, an inspirational one as they often were. Jake pokes around at the big private VIP reception afterwards, spying on a target recruited by the CIA; the one who Al believes may have recruited Oswald, too. Then Jake’s found out, pursued by security and police.
This entire sequence is beautifully filmed, as are many/most of those set in 1960.
But wait – the Yellow Card Man appears in the hallways below the hotel where Jake sneaks off. Only briefly, as if guiding a path for Epping. Jake makes his way into a storage room, but finds himself nearly attacked by a swarm of cockroaches. He wakes up some time later in the custody of a couple officers, likely Secret Service agents. So Jake puts on his best act, to make sure neither of the men discover Al’s Vietnam War pocket knife. He sneaks out clean. But Jake’s got to start being more careful. What if he gets caught in the past and thrown in jail?
Still following the target, George de Mohrenschildt (Jonny Coyne), we find Jake in a high class Spanish restaurant. The past starts to “push back“, as Al puts it – small fires, a chandelier falls on a table, all nearly putting Jake off the trail. But he’s armed with prior knowledge, and a keen wit. Jake tries his best to eavesdrop on de Mohrenschildt, as he talks with others at a nearby table. Another great aspect of the production here: the eavesdropping sounds so real, the muffled bits and pieces of conversation Jake picks out swarmed in a ton of other noises from around the restaurant. Neat addition to the sound design here playing into the situation.
Jake goes back to the boarding house, only to find the place on fire. Upstairs his things burn: all the research from Al, everything. Worst of all, the young boy who lived there is burned alive. A tragedy on all sides.
The finale of the episode returns to Harry Dunning. We knew this would come – Jake decides there are other things, smaller yet amazingly life-changing events which also need changing. Not just the JFK assassination. So, Jake has plenty more work to do. Something attainable for now. He heads down to the old Dunning home, where daddy Frank (Josh Duhamel) and mama Doris (Joanna Douglas) have a fractured relationship. Jake’s eyes say it all, as he watches from afar, wondering how to intervene. Should he?
Excited to watch the next episode, “The Kill Floor” – can’t get enough of this King adaptation so far, high hopes for the rest.
Jonah Hill and James Franco are the selling point of TRUE STORY, all the way.
The Interview. 2014. Dir. Evan Goldberg & Seth Rogen. Screenplay by Dan Sterling; story by Rogen, Goldberg & Sterling.
Starring James Franco, Seth Rogen, Lizzy Caplan, Randall Park, and Diana Bang.
Rated 14A. 112 minutes.
This film will no doubt divide people. There are a lot of people who want you to believe watching The Interview is some sort of patriotic act. Fact is, if Sony hadn’t initially backed down because of the threats over its release this would have just gone into theatre. Sure – the threat is what started it, but essentially Sony prevented everyone from seeing it by negotiating with terrorists. All that being said, you should see this just for the fact we should never let anyone tell us what to see, whether it’s a person, a government, our government, a foreign one, or anybody. Never. Now that Sony has decided to put it out, you can through Google, Xbox, and other outlets – plus, it’s a cheaper alternative than actually seeing it in theatre.
People need not be looking at this as some sort of way to take part in activism. It’s not. If the movie were a bit more satirical than outright foolish maybe I’d see it in more of a political light. This movie is in no way actually political. I’m sorry if you see it that way and disagree – I respect those opinions.
Personally, I just can’t enjoy this in any other way than a bit of stupid fun, as opposed to something like Bulworth, which on the surface feels silly at times but really has a true message behind things. The Interview has points it seem to want to make, claims about the way North Korea treats their people, et cetera. Unfortunately, there are less hits than the multiplicity of misses, and there’s mostly just a lot of jokes falling flat. While I love both James Franco and Seth Rogen, they’ve done much better before with This is the End and Pineapple Express.
Everyone knows the plot of the film because unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, or living in North Korea (and not working for the Supreme Leader), you no doubt heard something about The Interview. Two trashy journalists, host Dave Skylark (Franco) and producer Aaron Rapaport (Rogen), similar to the type of guys and gals who populate TMZ’s “newsroom” (pains me to even call it that), end up scoring an interview with Kim Jong-un, who is apparently a big fan of their tabloid show “Skylark Tonight”. The CIA gets wind of their interview and taps them both to assassinate Kim. Of course things go wrong in, supposedly, hilarious fashion, as neither Rapaport nor Skylard are equipped, mentally or physically, to handle such responsibility.
One of the first parts I really didn’t enjoy was when Skylark feeds Aaron ecstasy. Now, it’s not because I’m afraid of drugs; on film, they can be especially hilarious when portrayed correctly. My problem with this quick little segment is that it feels like Goldberg and Rogen just said “hmmm we need a segue from one scene to another – let’s recycle”. It reminds me so much of This is the End when Jay Baruchel accidentally drinks a can full of ecstasy; it then kicks into a little montage of them all high as hell getting crazy. I enjoyed it the first time. This one just felt out of place. While I did laugh because I always find it funny in a movie or television show (never in real life – and that’s for fucking real – never do this to anyone) when someone ingests drugs unknowingly, it really is completely recycled from their previous collaboration.
This scene also just didn’t fit at all. They could’ve introduced Lizzy Caplan’s character in any other way. For some reason, they decided this little drug-fueled sequence leading to Franco & Rogen waking up in the same place was the best. Maybe it was to make room for the raunchy, but really hilarious, “dick stink” joke Franco plays out. We laughed pretty hard at this one, I have to admit. Overall, I just don’t think it played well. I know the point was to have the two main characters somewhere alone together, so as to allow for the secret CIA meet with Caplan, however, I have to imagine there was a better way to write this scene than the scene that exists.
My problem with The Interview doesn’t lie with all the crude humour or any sort of perceived offensiveness. Not at all. It’s not particularly a great comedy. In the slightest.
I do find Seth Rogen funny. I’ve honestly considered myself a fan of his ever since Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared. I like more of his recent work, too. For me, though, this is just not a good example of his best work. While Rogen is absolutely one of the funnier parts of The Interview, that isn’t to say it’s one of his funnier movies.
One example of a real good scene for Rogen is when he and Diana Bang share a “love scene” (you’ll understand the reason behind my use of quotation marks once you’ve actually seen the movie). It’s not just funny because of the physical comedy involved – Bang and Rogen are both really hilarious here. Genuine laughter. There’s also another very quick, crude little moment with the two of them I did not expect. The girlfriend and I laughed, as well as being generally surprised, when this happened. It’s quick, but an effective little gag.
I also like James Franco quite a bit. Maybe even more than I like Rogen. No matter how people view Franco I’ll always enjoy his performances because I usually find him pretty engaging, as well as a fairly interesting actor. On the other hand, there are a few of his movies where I don’t really enjoy him. Throughout The Interview I swayed back and forth between finding a few of his scenes funny, to being perpetually annoyed with his character; and that’s not in a sense that he was trying to be annoying. Certain jokes Franco tries to pull off here really aren’t funny. They verge on being worthy of a cringe or two. While I found some bits really funny (example: the bit with Eminem at the beginning was funny), others that were maybe not meant to be as funny (example: Skylark finds some fake fruit setup in a grocery store), certain scenes intended to play for outright laughs went over like a wet fart in church (example: “hate us ’cause they ain’t us” both in the earlier scene with Rogen & later in the scene with Randall Park were excruciatingly bad). There was just such a mix with Franco’s performance as Skylark. I don’t know if it’s how Franco played the character or how his character was written, but I just couldn’t get into him consistently enough to enjoy.
Some say Randall Park is absolutely hilarious in this, as if his performance was a revelation. He was competent enough, and yes, I absolutely did laugh at a handful of moments with him. Regardless, it wasn’t anything great. He looks a fair bit like Kim, though not at all identical, but the role itself (not Park – he did a decent job) isn’t exactly written well. I mean, the stuff with Katy Perry was funny during the tank scene. I laughed hard. Then, once they brought it back from the dead and beat it to death, I just got sick of the whole thing. The role of Kim could have been satirized much better. I don’t understand how anybody can’t see that – world leaders have been skewed with more clever wit in a movie like Dr. Strangelove, where even the Russian president’s role was hilarious while his dialogue is never actually heard, only second-hand through Peter Sellers as fictional United States President Merkin Muffley. That is not Park’s fault whatsoever. The writing for Jong-un’s character in the film was sloppy. They had a chance here to really knock it out of the park with a biting characterization. Instead they went solely for the slapstick comedy. While I do enjoy certain slapstick-style comedies, this just didn’t connect because it was really lazy, opting for silly jokes such as Kim Jong-il telling his son margaritas are “gay”. On the surface they’re good for a chuckle, but little else.
Honourable mention for Franco must go to – the end of the scene where Skylark busts into Aaron’s office to let him know about Kim Jong-un being a fan of the show. Another guy from the show busts in and claims there’s a possible video of Matthew McConaughey having sex with a goat, to which Skylark replies: “Get the goat! Get the goat! (turns to Aaron) I got some questions for that goat.” Honestly, just the way Franco does the turn, looks at Rogen and delivers the line, absolutely slays me. There are some really great little throwaway lines in here like this. That’s perhaps the problem. There doesn’t feel, to me, like there is much of a constant throughout The Interview, but rather a ton of tiny jokes thrown together in a script. Worse still, many of the jokes, even some of the actual funny stuff, often rely solely on the bromance between Franco and Rogen. I do enjoy their hilarious friendship, I just don’t want to watch a movie where they’re not playing themselves and yet still playing themselves somehow.
While a lot of people have high praise for The Interview that is just one bandwagon I cannot jump on, even if I wanted to hitch a ride. While I found it funny enough to make it through the near two-hour running time, I don’t think I’ll ever watch it again. I really wanted to watch it, and pay for it, because I do believe in freedom of speech. Although I don’t necessarily think this is the greatest representation for this particular right, people really should go see it just to make your own personal statement; you should never let anybody, as I mentioned earlier, determine what you can or cannot see in terms of art (I mean real art – pederasts unfortunately use this rhetoric to try and justify their sick visions of “art”).
On the other hand, don’t expect The Interview to really break down any sort of barriers or any new ground in comedy. This really is meant to just be a fun comedy. Due to all the controversy and the hackers, North Korean or otherwise, people want to give this movie more meaning than I believe it ever intended to convey. I expected more in that sense, however, in the end I’m just ultimately disappointed by the comedy itself. I’ve enjoyed lots of what some critics would like to call “low brow comedy” (for instance I love Dumb & Dumber and even lesser loved raunchy comedies like Kingpin), I don’t have anything against crude humour, dick jokes, anything like that – I’m 30 and I don’t think I’ll ever stop laughing at fart jokes. But even in the dirtiest jokes there’s still a way to tell them to ensure they actually make people laugh.
Basically, I just don’t think the performances, all together, add up to enough. Rogen is the only one I really found funny from start to finish. Some may even disagree with me on this point, too. Caplan and Bang weren’t in there enough to really be hilarious, and they were great female roles, which is sad; I particularly enjoy Caplan and wish her character was better. There are a lot of individual jokes I enjoyed (the honey pot/honey dick lines wore away my nerves after the numerous repetitions), but I can’t say this is anything more than a mediocre comedy at best. See it – only to say you didn’t like cyber terrorism ruin our collective right to see the movies we want. Otherwise, don’t expect much more than a few laughs and a lot of Franco hamming it up beyond belief.