To be a successful adaptation of a Stephen King novel or story, it’s much more important to transfer to the screen the heart and sentimental tone behind his words, rather than merely rehashing all the visually active bits. The problem is, he usually bulks up that sentiment with a miasma of characters and climaxes always in danger of imploding upon itself. But it isn’t always the case, and 2011’s 11/22/63 was a monster that gave itself to readers in full, never really asking anyone to tackle the Mental Labors of Hercules for absolute engagement. Furthermore, it was one of the more respectable endings that King has given us in some time.
For a more negative ending, director Jonathan Demme told The Playlist that he “had an option and I let it go. But I hope it’s moving forward. I really want to see that movie.” As excited as I would have been for anyone to be adapting it, Demme brought a level of credibility slightly higher than what Kimberly Pierce has brought to a Carrie remake that is looking less like the stupid idea it started out as.
In hindsight, I consider 11/22/63 to be a moving love story within historical fiction, which sounds like the most emetic genre ever. But the story of Jake Epping is entrenched in unexplained time travel, and the multitude of consequences one faces when trying to stop one of the most famous murders in American history, a murder that has inspired more fiction than there was fact to begin with, all while falling in love with someone who would be twice his age in the present. Things get complicated, and stay that way for a while.
As such, skimming it down to feature-length presents its own long list of complexities. “11/22/63 is a big book, with lots in it. And I loved certain parts of the book for the film more than Stephen did. We’re friends, and I had a lot of fun working on the script, but we were too apart on what we felt should be in and what should be out of the script,” Demme explained. The sub-plot about essay writer Harry Dunning’s tragic past, and Jake’s efforts to change it, could be a movie on its own.
The book will still get its day, I’m sure. Does this sound more daunting than Ben Affleck messing with The Stand? Definitely not. Since Under the Dome is going to CBS, maybe ABC can turn this into a miniseries to air right after Dome finishes. And then ESPN can film Blockade Billy, NatGeo can produce Duma Key, and Lifetime can adapt Lisey’s Story, or maybe some stories from Full Dark, No Stars, since those stories had more abusive men per capita.