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Movie Review: ‘Doctor Sleep’ Starring: Ewan McGregor, Rebecca Ferguson
Films based off Stephen King books seem to be can’t miss lately. From the release of ‘IT’ and onto the second part of the film, King has been on a roll over the last few years.
‘Doctor Sleep’ is the newest adaptation of a King novel and surely not the last, as the master of horror has several more of his stories in development. ‘Doctor Sleep’ is the sequel to Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining.’ While King has long been critical of Kubrick’s adaptation of his book, ‘Doctor Sleep’ appears to be right up King’s alley, even though director Mike Flanagan changed some of details in King’s novel to adapt it better for the big screen. While ‘Doctor Sleep’ may not have been one of King’s best novels, the film is more than a worthy predecessor to ‘The Shining.’ In my opinion ‘Doctor Sleep’ is a better film all around than Kubrick’s film. The story is not quite as dark, the acting is top-notch, and the characters are just more likeable.
Ewan McGregor plays Danny, who was narrowly escaped his father, Jack, in the first film. Danny is all grown up now and is trying to drink his past away. Alcohol seems to keep Danny from being tormented by ghosts and ghouls, but has also ruined his life. We get to see Danny as a child, in the aftermath of ‘The Shining,’ as well as his struggles as an adult. Finally at rock bottom, Danny moves to a small-town in New Hampshire to start over. He gets into rehab and takes a job at a nursing home where he helps the dying, well, die with peace. Some of these moments are some of the most sentimental and yet unsettling parts of the film. Dealing with the topic of death is a touchy subject. It can come across as hokey, but if done right, as it is in Flanagan’s film, it comes across as a stoic, rite of passage that leads us into another journey on the other side, whatever that may be.
While McGregor is great as Danny, he is outdone by two females in the film. Rebecca Ferguson, who you may recognize from her role as the opera diva in ‘The Greatest Showman,’ is nothing short of a scene stealer in the film. Playing Rose the Hat, the leader of a child murdering cult, she is so evil, she’s nearly likeable. Rose the Hat and her cult inhale the steam of children who possess a psychic essence, that’s only produced when the children are in pain and ultimately murdered. One of scenes of the film is rather difficult to watch, when the cult kills a young boy who possesses the psychic steam. It’s during this scene that we meet Abra, a young girl played brilliantly by 13-year-old newcomer Kyliegh Curran. Curran will undoubtedly turn a lot of heads with this role. As Abra is noticed by Rose, looking in on the young boy’s murder, the cult immediately sets out after her.
Abra is also able to contact Danny, which sets up the rest of the film.
While some King fans may not feel a sequel to Kubrick’s classic film was needed, as a fan of King’s work, I think they will enjoy the new film regardless if it was needed or not.
There are some weak spots in the film, such as a bar scene in the hotel. Danny sits at the bar and has a conversation of a young version of his father. The poor actor who was picked had no chance to stand up to the performance of Jack Nicholson in the original. While the scene was poignant and creepy at the same time, the audience failed to connect to it because it was not Nicholson. The film could have probably been trimmed down from its 2 hour and 20 minute run time to right around 2 hours, but that’s being awfully nitpicky. I didn’t think the film ever really drug in spots, as it moved along quite nicely.
While some may scoff at ‘Doctor Sleep’ as a cash grab sequel to a film that many consider a classic, it’s just not the case. McGregor shows he has the chops to carry a film, turning in a solid performance that is only outdone by the two female characters in the film. While King did not like ‘The Shining,’ the author seems very happy with the cinematic version of his 2013 sequel. With more King adaptations to the big screen on the way, The Lookout Hotel may be closed for business, but movie studios are just getting started with King’s deep lineup of books.
‘Doctor Sleep’ gets an A-.