Friday, September 29, 2017

Just a few words about "Gerald's Game"

I won't be doing a full review of Gerald's Game, the new Netflix original movie directed and co-written by Mike Flanagan.  Not for now, at least; I have vague plans to read and blog about the novel before 2017 is over, and when that happens, that will be followed by a full review of this new movie.
  
It will be worth examining fully, no doubt about that.
  
  
  
  
Bottom line: it's pretty damn great.  This might not hold true for you if you don't like the novel, I guess; and I can imagine some people being a little bored by it for a while in the beginning.
  
None of those things apply to me, though.  
  
The movie's chief virtue is almost certainly the casting of Carla Gugino, who is Oscar-nomination good as Jessie.  She might have to settle for an Emmy nomination, since this will be classified as a television movie.  (For the record, the arbitrary distinction between what does and doesn't count as a "movie" is mostly an antiquated one at this point.  And I'll tell you what, if Netflix is going to be doing movie of this caliber, that "mostly" is going away quick.)
  
Bruce Greenwood is every bit as good playing Gerald, whose role here is beefed up (pardon the pun) in comparison to the novel; but in a way that completely honors the intent of the novel.
  
Director Mike Flanagan has said he's a massive fan of both King in general and Gerald's Game specifically, and unlike some of the hacks who have said things like that in their interviews about the King properties they were "adapting" this year, Flanagan can obviously be taken 100% at his word.  It's been a while since I read the novel, but my memory tells me that this is very faithful indeed.  How nice it is to see a King adaptation that runs toward its source material rather than away from it!
  
Flanagan has been making a name for himself in the horror genre for a few years now.  This is the first of his films that I've seen, but it won't be the last: I'm going to make an effort to catch up on Oculus and Hush and maybe even Ouija: Origin of Evil over the course of the next few weeks, because it seems (a) like I owe it to the guy and (b) that it'll be its own reward.  He's got a strong, confident style here; this novel had been deemed unadaptable for years, but it turns out that all it needed was for Mike Flanagan to come along.  "Unadaptable my ass," you can practically hear him saying.  "Get me Carla Gugino and Bruce Greenwood and a dog, and we'll see about that."
  
There's plenty more to be said, but for now, I think that'll suffice.  Get yourself to Netflix and check it out!

20 comments:

  1. Very happy to hear this got the TTITL seal of approval. Dawn and I have it on tap to watch this weekend. Which I'll mention now because who knows when, exactly, this plan will come to fruition. Hopefully soon, though.

    Can't wait for 1922.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I feel the same way. That's one of my favorite King novellas, so if the movie can do it justice, I'll be a happy camper.

      Good luck with the time-finding!

      Delete
  2. Totally agree. I knew what was coming the whole time and was still terrified, spellbound.

    It’s too early to call, but I’m temped to put this one up there with Kubrick’s The Shining and Dolores Claiborne, as far as the adaptations go.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's too early in one sense, but I think that (like "It") it immediately goes into the upper echelons.

      "Dolores Claiborne" is a pretty good comparison, and if a side-effect of this movie is that more people end up finding that one too via the connection between the novels, I'd think that was awesome.

      Delete
  3. I watched this last night as soon as it dropped. Of all the King adaptations that came this year, this was the one I had highest hopes for, a combination of reverence for both the Novel itself as well as the filmmaker behind it, and it lived up to what I hoped for almost entirely.

    You should check out Occulus, Hush & Absentia if you liked this, because most of what made this so effective in terms of direction and style come straight from Flanagan's traditional playbook. He's one of the best at weaving in and out of time lines seamlessly (He also edits his own films as well which I'm sure helps in that area) and writes some pretty well developed characters. It's not surprising the guy is an life long King fan, it shows throughout his work. In the same way King can make an idea as ridiculous as a Haunted car so compelling through his ability as a writer, Flanagan can make an almost cringe worthy concept of a haunted mirror compelling through character and innovative directing techniques.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. How're things in Hobb's End, Mr. Kane?

      ;)

      I haven't heard a bad word about this movie so far. I'm not too surprised that this was somebody's pick for most-anticipated King movie of the year; because the book's fans do seem to be very devoted. So do Flanagan's, and in both cases, looks like there are good reasons for it.

      I forgot about "Absentia"! Thanks for the reminder. Added to the list.

      Delete
  4. Watched this on the weekend as well, really enjoyed it. It wasn't my favorite King book, but I thought the movie did a great job of telling a story that mostly goes on in Jessie's head.

    Also, I loved when Gerald said "All things serve the beam"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, that was cool. I can't remember -- was that in the book? I don't think it was, but I thought the same thing about the very last scene, and was dead wrong about that. (Not that it mattered; I loved it either way.)

      Delete
  5. I've been delighted to see the good reviews for this, and doubly so now that a fan with your love of all things King and demand for high quality and a faithful adaptation has so much good to say. It's high up in my queue, and I hope to get to it in the next week or two, but just a couple questions: 1) how gnarly is the degloving scene? A few weeks ago I was unexpectedly shown some real-life pictures like that, so I'm probably a little extra queasy thinking about it. I handled 127 Hours perfectly fine after much hoopla about the scene it's most famous for. I wouldn't say I was unaffected, but there was certainly no lightheadedness or near-vomiting, but this may be even worse due to the skin factor. 2) from what I've heard, Jessie is in a nightie rather than half-naked like she was in most of the novel, which I'm sure has men disappointed. As a red-blooded male, of course, I'm sure Carla Gugino's chest is lovely, but I never thought of it as a must for a movie adaptation. Did you feel they cheated a little? I've read a lot of the same stuff about Gerald's Game being "unfilmable," blah blah blah, and some out in cyberspace who feel the nudity is absolutely essential to the character's situation. Do you have any strong feelings about that?

    I've read a couple of columns about the casting of It: Chapter Two written since Chapter One came out, and some of the ideas I found quite brilliant, but I'm not sure where to tell you about it. I don't want to detract from Gerald's Game. Where do you prefer I comment? I've missed playing the casting game since the guy doing that blog disappeared about a year and a half ago.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I would say my "It" review is probably the best place.

      http://thetruthinsidethelie.blogspot.com/2017/09/it-wants-to-divide-us-review-of-it-2017.html

      Regarding the degloving scene in "Gerald's Game," I have no idea how gnarly it is. I will never -- NEVER ever ever -- watch that scene. It sure did SOUND gnarly, though, and based on reviews, it is pretty rough.

      My tolerance for gore is limited. Sometimes, I'm cool with it, but there is a threshold beyond which I simply will not pass, and that scene exists well beyond my threshold. I got no problem with it being there; in fact, salud to you, Mike Flanagan, for being willing to go there!

      This is kind of shameful for me to admit, but I thought for years that the reason the novel was unfilmable was that they'd never convince an actress to be topless for that long, and even if they did, the MPAA would give it an NC-17. It literally never once occurred to me that, like, she could just be wearing something. THAT'S how dumb I can be (and how enslaved to a novel). But as for it being essential to her character's situation? No. The novel makes it clear -- as does the movie -- that her vulnerability comes from a very damaged emotional place, and that's the case whether she's fully nude or wearing a deep-sea-diving suit. Doesn't matter in the slightest.

      I won't lie to you: I'd be quite happy to ogle a naked Carla Gugino for an entire movie. But I'm glad they didn't do that for the movie, because -- and this would have been true twenty years ago, much less in the rhetorically-charged climate we live in now -- it would have made the conversation about the movie be all about that. Ugh. No thanks.

      Delete
    2. I'm glad you feel that way. It seems a little suspect to demand boobies for art's sake. I'm sure there's an argument of her nakedness being symbolic somewhere, but I've never cared about that as long there's a compelling story. Funny, though, that bosoms were the reason for a theoretical adaptation being rated NC-17 when there's a pretty extreme scene of graphic violence. I can tell you which one I think would be more damaging to a child. I never felt traumatized when I got lucky enough to see a few R-rated movies with breasts, but I was pretty disturbed by Cape Fear and Silence of the Lambs and the opening sequence of Terminator 2. But that's how we do it in America, baby!

      I had no idea you were that sensitive to graphic violence. I used to be much more, and I'm no gorehound now, but Stephen King's descriptions of violence are far more unsettling for me. I'm not looking forward to that scene, though. Funny that you listened but didn't look. It might be worse in your head. It must have seemed interminably long. I'm not sure I could do it that way, oddly enough. I'd either fast forward or just nut up. The ones that still get me queasy are the self-surgeries or other procedures with no anesthetic. Reaching into the one guy's leg in Black Hawk Down could still probably get me sick even thinking about it. And a couple of scenes from Ash vs. Evil Dead were right on the line. I'm thinking this one's gonna be pretty rough.

      Delete
    3. My sensitivity to graphic violence comes and goes; it's situational. The shorthand way of explaining it is to say that the more realistic it gets, the more resistant I am to it.

      When you watch the movie, let me know what you think about that scene!

      Delete
  6. Watched it tonight with Dawn - great movie, great adaptation. I'm not the hugest fan of the book, but the movie very much made me want to read it again with fresh eyes.

    In the King-adaptation game, this one did its job and then some. Very high marks, all around.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm glad y'all enjoyed it! It seems to be earning pretty near unanimous praise, although some people have ragged on everything that happens after the car crash. Not me; I thought that section made the movie. But I feel the same way about that segment of the novel, too.

      I gotta check out some more Mike Flanagan movies! That guy seems legit.

      Delete
  7. So, I did watch it last Saturday night while the Mrs. was out having a girls' night, after the kids went to bed. The hand scene was even worse than I expected. No vomiting, but I involuntarily shielded my eyes from the screen more than once, and looked away a few times, and it's not even that long a scene. I agree with what's already been said, though: they hit it out of the park. I'd never thought of Gugino as anything but a good solid actress, or really anything beyond average (not including her looks), but she was a revelation in this role (I should probably say roles). And Bruce Greenwood I've always thought of as a very nice character actor, but he too brought a lot to the material, and I actually rather enjoyed the expanded role. It probably worked better that way in a screen adaptation than to have yet another Jessie with negative self-talk about her flaws and her weight, which I seem to recall being the device used in the book.

    There really does seem to be a King renaissance we've all hoped for. I just heard today that Josh Boone from The Fault in Our Stars will be directing The Talisman, and Mr. Mercedes has something like an 85 on Rotten Tomatoes and just got renewed for Season 2, and I'm pretty confident that we've reached the tipping point where we'll now see many others. Maybe even a big-budget HBO-style miniseries adaptation of The Stand?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gugino is somebody who's always impressed me, but I've never felt like she's had the career she deserves. It seems like she's always sort of been on the fringes a bit; right there on the verge of really breaking through, but never quite managing to do it.

      This might be it. I really wouldn't be surprised if it gets her an Emmy.

      I totally agree about the change with Greenwood/Gerald. Having him be more present in the movie was a very good idea.

      Rumors are out there that CBS All Access might be looking at "The Stand," and if so, I'll be thrilled. I'm already subscribing for "Star Trek: Discovery," so that'll make me happier than if it goes to Showtime (another rumor). I'm not a huge fan of "Discovery" yet, but the show looks great, and CBSAA is obviously giving it their all. So if they could get the right people onboard a "Stand" series, they could make that work.

      I'm less excited about "The Talisman." Not a favorite of mine. But maybe the movie will work, who knows.

      Delete
  8. Intriguing. Also, heads up to Kane of Hobb's End for pre-warning Re: de-gloving.

    I never got around to this one, so I'm still in the dark for he moment. It does sound like something to look forward two after two disappointing King adaptations in a row.

    Looking forward to the full review.

    ChrisC

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That may not happen until next year, at this rate. It's the next King novel I want to give the full treatment, and a proper consideration of the movie will follow. But something tells me it's not happening in '17.

      Delete
  9. Graham the Haunted MarshmallowNovember 27, 2017 at 12:25 AM

    I have to give the movie major props for sticking to the book (though I think it should have taken a step back from the book and issued some discretion in one particular aspect). It is one of my favourite King books, and I think it took so long for someone to adapt it not because of the single-character-single-room setting (convenient screenwriting can get around that pretty easily, and it does here in the form of multiple Jessies), but because of the flashback scene, and to a lesser extent, the degloving scene. I thought the former was just as disgusting as it needed to be (props to Henry Thomas and the young actress in the bedroom scene), and I thought the latter was far more disgusting than it needed to be. And it was great. (Seriously, I don’t think I have ever cringed and exclaimed as loudly while watching a movie as I did seeing Jessie do that to herself. It tops any similar scene in any similar movie for me. And I have no problem with gore on screen. Blech.)

    I don’t think Flanagan did himself any favours by sticking to the book when it comes to The Moonlight Man. It felt clunky in print, too, but there was still 100 pages there to allow you to settle into the idea, wherher you like it or not. Sure, it came across as a long and clinical footnote, ultimately, but I could still appreciate it as a sum of its parts. In the film, I thought it gave me a chance to breathe, and I think that was a mistake.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've heard other people say that. It worked for me, but clearly not for everyone.

      You could be right that it was the incest angle and the degloving that kept a movie from being made for so long. I wouldn't be surprised at all.

      I just hope Flanagan never decides to take a crack at "Survivor Type." If he does, I'll ... listen to it.

      Delete