The new 8-part mini-series streaming on Hulu, “11.22.63,” based on the Stephen King best-selling novel of the same name, has been quite the riveting period drama. With Stephen King and J.J. Abrams being two of the executive producers for the series, you instantly get drawn in and start noticing their film styles coming out… along with treasures that King leaves behind for fans to notice.
The historical drama, released fittingly on Presidents Day last month, stars James Franco (127 Hours, Milk) as the main character, Jake, an english teacher.He is let in on a secret by an old diner owner who he’s known for years, Al, played by Chris Cooper (American Beauty, Adaptation). The secret is that there is a time portal which let’s you travel back in time – however, it’s only to one date: the year 1960. The other requirement? Any time you come back to the present day, everything from the past will stay the same, unless if you go back in time again, in which the past will reset. Everything.
After discovering this time portal, Al had decided to dedicate his entire life to finding out who had assassinated John F. Kennedy in the year 1963, and do everything in his power to stop them from doing so. His work was extensive, including notes upon notes upon notes, as well as ID cards and money for Jake to go back to the year 1960, and continue his operation someday with success.
Although similar to the book, the pace of the mini-series is a bit more accelerated and skips over certain years to keep its curiosity upbeat for viewers. Bridgete Carpenter, lead writer for the story for television, said in an interview with Variety, “You have to make that dramatic, you have to make it drive like a train. We wanted a speeding train of a story.”
The “time-travel” plot works well, partially because the rules of the sci-fi portion of the story are set in stone, with no apparent plot holes. Because this is a Stephen King masterpiece, gore and horror make their arrival at times, but in a tasteful and logical way, and they slip out quickly (possibly because it’s under Hulu’s ownership).
With James Franco holding roles under a multitude of categories since the beginning of his career, specifically known for his raw humor in movies such as “Pineapple Express,” “Your Highness,” “This Is the End,” “The Interview,” and most recently, “The Night Before” – some may be reluctant to watch him in a serious, extremely significant role that he plays in “11.22.63.” Nevertheless, I must say that after watching the first six episodes of the 8-part series, I could not imagine any other actor performing as phenomenal of a job as Franco does in the historical, at times very dark, drama.
Abrams told Variety that he was so committed to casting Franco as the role of Jake after reading an article that the Yale Ph.D. student had written about the book. “When I read this piece that Franco had written, it was so passionate about this character, about this world, about this story,” Abrams said.
When you watch Franco in “11.22.63.” you don’t see the real-life person of James Franco – you see the simple, yet sometimes complex high school english teacher that he portrays, Jake Epping. You see the passion in his role. You see the spirit. You see the way he connects with his character so vividly. And that, along with the rest of the remarkable cast, is worth more than anything else while watching this series.
★★★★★ – “sci-fi fused with period drama and a sprinkle of horror – pure genius and brilliant casting”