February 25, 2016

Since 11/22/63 sounds like the type of TV show dreamt up while stoned off ones ass, you can perhaps guess where James Franco drew inspiration for his acting style in this eight part mini-series that he adapted (and occasionally directs), from a Stephen King novel.

Beautiful, but distracted, he drifts from one scene to the next, barely flinching as some whacked out shit goes down in a dystopian, alternate history, where a high school teacher in the present day inherits a diner which contains a wardrobe leading back to a specific date in 1960.

The previous owner of Al’s Diner has been leaping back and forth for decades, building up an extensive file on the assassination of President Kennedy, in the hopes that he can prevent it, changing the course of history. A shit buzz in the shape of liver cancer has ruled out him finishing the job, himself. But since an unlimited time in the past is only two minutes in the present, Al(Chris Cooper) has had enough time to develop a fake identity and a source of income for his chosen successor- Jake, a soon to be divorcee, full of promise who has never really met his potential.

After a barely committed-to spat, right before Al’s death, (that shrieks towards an Ed Wood style of acting), Jake feels encumbered with grief, and traipses straight into the wardrobe, attempting to prevent the present from ever coming into being.

It’s like The Lion, The Witch and the Cold War-drobe, with Jake Quantum Leaping back to spy on Lee Harvey Oswald and his handlers, to see who was REALLY behind the assassination of Kennedy… and then stopping them. To, effectively, fill in the supposition left in history books and conspiracy theories with cold hard fact.

But the past doesn’t want to be altered… and pushes back against any changes his discoveries may bring about, like a Mad Men-era Final Destination.

It’s a ridiculous premise, played straight, and the 80-minute pilot contains enough intrigue to lure us back, week after week. (This is no mass dumped monstrosity to be binge watched and forgotten).

Jake has to measure how much of what he does in this ‘new’ now negativity impacts the friends and lovers he picks up along the way and whether changing the course of history is really worth the pain he causes them.

Everyone in 11/22/53 seems to be having a blast. The costumes are fabulous, the period detail comforting and the poor performances glossed over by their commitment to the absurdity. And since it’s only an eight-episode commitment ,there’s none of that “will we ever find out what’s going on” terror that Lost instilled in us and the X-Files returned to taunt us with.

Franco may act stoned throughout, but on the basis of this first episode, I’m perfectly ok inhaling what he’s having.


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