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'Lisey's Story' review: A Stephen King bore with gore

Julianne Moore stars "Lisey's Story," which premieres Friday

Julianne Moore stars "Lisey's Story," which premieres Friday on Apple TV+. Credit: Apple TV+

THE SERIES "Lisey's Story"

WHEN | WHERE Begins streaming Friday on Apple TV+

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Lisey Debusher Landon (Julianne Moore) is the widow of celebrated bestselling author Scott Landon (Clive Owen) — alas, the sort of writer who also attracted deranged fans, one of whom shot him at a ceremony at the University of Georgia. (He survived the attack, by the way, but that's another story besides Lisey's.) Much later, after his death, Lisey gets a call from a Professor Dashiel (Ron Cephas Jones), who wants to buy Landon's papers. When she refuses, Dashiel gets a former student, also deranged, to persuade her otherwise. That student, Jim Dooley (Dane DeHaan), does have his own unique methods.

Meanwhile, in flashbacks, we learn where Scott got his stories — a magical dream world that also happens to be real called Boo' ya Moon — and that he was brutalized as a child. One of Lisey's sisters, Amanda (Joan Allen) has ties to Boo'ya Moon, too. The other sister, Darla (Jennifer Jason Leigh), would just like to know what the heck is going on. These eight episodes are based on Stephen King's 2006 novel.

MY SAY "Lisey's Story" is the story of too many short-run series in this age of too-much TV. To wit, not much of a story. Oh sure, there's a maniac here and a monster there to prod the action. There usually are. But a real story, where something meaningful happens over long stretches, while a sinuous plot demands that we pay attention scene to scene? Not "Lisey's." The only thing that's sinuous here is the stuff coming out of that monster's head.

And like too many other peak TV shows, "Lisey's" begins well enough in the opener, then faced with that steep incline otherwise known as the next seven episodes, starts to slow down. The law of gravity goes to work. The pace slackens. Temporizing sets in. Then it really sets in.

Adaptations from some books fall prey to this because TV has a way of devouring plot. Not necessary King adaptations, however. His doorstops are nuclear-powered story machines that usually overwhelm the screen. There have been dozens of King TV adaptations over the years, some successful (most recently "Mr. Mercedes'' or "11.22.63"), some not (2011's "Bag of Bones.") "Lisey's" is one of the "nots." It's a monumental bore.

What's wrong here? Besides that gelatinous pace matched by a lugubrious score, what's mostly wrong is subject matter. Some of that involves extreme violence against children and women (or Lisey in particular) and not merely extreme but excessive. Cutting is a core plot point, too. Wrists, hands, faces, chests. Whatever. No one comes out of this without a gushing wound or two. Yes, we expect to be disturbed by King and, in fact, demand it, but what we don't expect (or demand) is to get beaten over the head with it.

Meanwhile, in absence of plot, the cast (sad to say, a fine one) is left to chew the scenery. And chew away they do. DeHaan, in particular, nearly devours the entire set all by himself. It's a drooling, wild-eyed crazytown of a performance that can be both fun and irritating in the same instance — ultimately just the latter.

So dive in, friends. If you've got an Apple TV + subscription, may as well use it. Just don't say you weren't warned. Boo-ya.

BOTTOM LINE An eight-episode gluepot.

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