Your weekly Netflix Pick is back with more Stephen King goodness! 1922, based on the short story (relative when it comes to King), is a great adaptation starring Thomas Jane, Molly Parker, and Dylan Schmid. Three King movies in a year. What is it Joey is always saying? What a time to be alive!
Wilfred James (Jane) is a farmer with a reasonable plot of land. He’s not the most caring man but has a wife, Arlette (Parker), and a teenage son, Henry (Schmid). Along with his farm it’s clear that Wilfred cared a great deal for Henry. The James family isn’t wealthy by any means. They get by.
When Arlette inherits her father’s land Wilfred assumes his farm just got bigger. Arlette voices her desire to sell it all and relocate to a major city. Wilfred isn’t hearing it and considers the matter closed. When Arlette pushes back and says Henry and herself are going with or without Wilfred he starts plotting.
You’d think a man killing his wife would be the end of the story. Not so. It’s just the start. The murder happens early on and an eerie vibe sets into the film that follows both the character of Wilfred and the audience throughout.
Given that the big event of the story happens early on and much of the events are designed around the main characters psychotic break down the movie is a slow burn. The run time may be a bit too long for the content. Despite being slow the ride is worth it for a couple different reasons.
First things first, King is a master of suspense. People shove the ‘horror’ genre on King but that’s not all he does nor does he even consider himself a horror writer. The slow burn is intentional to get inside Wilfred’s head. Despite your almost immediate dislike for the man you are on this ride with him. You see what he’s going through. You wonder how you’d react. Whether you want to or not, you feel for him. The feeling doesn’t run deep. You’ll likely feel like it’s earned.
A character in a story getting what’s coming to them is nothing new. But this story in particular has a very classic ‘Twilight Zone’ type feel to it. Cut the run time and add in an intro/outro by King with a cigarette and you’re there. This is compounded when every step of the way, ever horrible thing Wilfred experiences could all have been avoided if he didn’t cross the initial line he crossed.
If you’re still not convinced watch this for Thomas Jane’s performance alone. The actor is almost unrecognizable despite the lack of extensive make up. His face is sunken. His skin is dry and leathery. He looks much older than he is. He looks like a man who has had a hard life and feels like he has no other options. In short, he looks like Wilfred James. The way he carries himself along with the speech pattern and slight accent complete the character making him feel real.
The strength of the actor is why 1922 works. As previously stated the substance doesn’t quite justify the run time but Jane fills in the gaps and makes up for any slight perceived shortcomings. Even better for King fans, this isn’t Janes only time working with the writer’s material.