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Lisey’s Story movie review & film summary (2021)

In the now, Lisey is pulled in all different directions. She’s pulled by Professor Dashmiel and his deranged henchman, Scott Landon superfan Jim Dooley (Dane DeHaan); by Darla, who worries that Amanda’s latest self-harm incident signifies a deeper disconnect from reality; and by a treasure hunt, or “bool” hunt, that Scott left behind for her. The clues that Scott littered around their home and office connect back with the past, allowing “Lisey’s Story” to fill in the details on how Lisey and Scott fell in love, on the unique bond Scott and Amanda had, and on how Scott’s troubled childhood inspired his work. Through flashbacks, dreams, and nightmares, “Lisey’s Story” places us alongside the titular character as she attempts to find the final message Scott left her, and the other world required to understand it.

None of this would work without Moore, and she anchors the series even as it spirals into the self-indulgent, harnessing great grit and ferocity into her portrayal of this woman practically consumed by sorrow and resentment. Lisey’s prickliness is omnipresent, from the matter-of-fact way she tells people off to the way she ducks spending time with Amanda. Moore has great chemistry with Leigh and Owen in particular, and the relationships between Lisey and Darla and Lisey and Scott feel the most real. Even as “Lisey’s Story” pulls the character between time periods through increasingly choppy editing, or relies a little too often on pained reaction shots from Moore to remind us of the agony she’s going through, or fails to give Lisey character traits past “devoted wife,” Moore is the admirably committed constant.

The problems surround Moore, though, with the most obvious being how “Lisey’s Story” is simultaneously spread too thin and lacking foundational necessities about these characters, their lives, and the supernatural world they step into. What was Lisey and Scott’s marriage like? What inspired Scott as a writer? Why did a couple with a $60 million fortune choose to live in an easily accessible farmhouse in Maine without even a private driveway or locked gate? You would think that one might be too nitpicky, but it speaks to how “Lisey’s Story” seems disconnected from space and time, like the series is more interested in these grand ideas about cosmic evil and the unknowability of the afterlife than in affixing those themes to a specific story about a specific couple. Coincidences abound, and the plot scrambles to accommodate them.

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