Friday, November 8, 2019

Doctor Sleep ***1/2 (2019)

Almost 40 years after its initial release, the story that began with The Shining is continued in Doctor Sleep. The story picks up with Danny Torrance (Ewan McGregor) decades after the events at the Overlook Hotel. As an adult Danny is still dealing with the trauma caused by his father and the Overlook. A redemption story above all else, Mike Flanagan's direction exemplifies character driven story telling.

The first part serves as an epilogue to the events of the first film with Danny and his mom Wendy relocating to Florida. One of the biggest risks of the film was recasting iconic characters played Shelley Duvall, Jack Nicholson, and Scatman Crothers. Carl Lumbly replaces Crothers as Holloran, adding depth to the character who met an ignoble end in the original. An unrecognizable Henry Thomas appears as Jack Torrance. Casting new actors was the right choice instead of going the CGI route.

McGregor gives first rate performance as a recovering alcoholic who finds solace in a small New Hampshire town by working at the local hospice. An especially calming presence for patients during their final moments, Danny earns the nickname Dr. Sleep. McGregor is especially effective as playing Danny as child like, but never a simpleton. He's a decent soul who leads a quiet life until ghosts from the past start to reappear.

Newcomer Kyliegh Curran plays Abra Stone, a teen who shares Danny's gift. She has a lot to do in the story and in a way ends up becoming the protagonist. Curran and McGregor have a good chemistry in one becomes a moving mentor/student relationship. Cliff Curtis also anchors the story as Danny's best friend.

New threats come in the form of a gang that travels across country in trailers who abduct children for a nefarious purpose. Their leader "Rose the Hat" is played by Rebecca Ferguson as a New Age disciple gone wrong. She's charming and seductive enough to keep her from being completely despicable. Ferguson's speech cadence is especially effective, emphasizing words in mid-sentence.

Flanagan never tries to imitate Kubrick, but provides just enough call back to appease fans of the original. The Overlook Hotel plays a pivotal role and the music by the Newton Brothers channels the Wendy Carlos score. In a contrast to the overwrought It: Chapter 2, Flanagan has a knack for tapping into Stephen King's emphasis on childhood. Doctor Sleep has its own story to tell without resting on the laurels of the The Shining.

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