Bag of Bones: Part 1 (TV Mini Series)
Director: Mick Garris
Screenplay: Matt Venne
Starring: Pierce Brosnan, Annabeth Gish, Melissa George, Anika Noni Rose, William Schallert
(Contains plot spoilers)
“Bag of Bones” is an adaptation of Stephen King’s novel into a two part television series, starring Pierce Brosnan and Melissa George. Described as a murder/mystery, love story, supernatural story, it has a little bit of everything. Having never read this book, I can’t comment on accuracy to the original story, and I was a bit hesitant in watching Bag of Bones, mostly due to the fact that many of King’s novels have fallen short once adapted into onscreen viewing in the hope that I will be proved wrong!!
Best-selling novelist Mike Noonan (Pierce Brosnan) has just completed his latest novel, insisting that his beloved wife, Jo (Annabeth Gish), writes the last line of his novel (as he has done with all his previous novels). During a book signing session, Jo, who accompanied him, decides to take a trip to the shop across the road to purchase a pregnancy test, unbeknown to Mike. As she returns to the bookstore, she is hit (at full speed) by a truck and dies. Mike discovers the pregnancy test as she lies on the floor and is totally overcome by grief.
Locked away indoors away from the world, Mike struggles to come to terms with his loss. It is also revealed that Mike is unable to have children and starts to suspect that Jo was cheating on him. His publicist tries to get him to write again (unbelievably announcing it at Jo’s funeral), worried that other novelists are taking Mike’s place in the book charts, but Mike is suffering from writer’s block. Mike receives harrowing nightmares about Jo and after an unexpected call from the janitor at his summer home at Dark Score Lake in Maine, decides to take some time out and return to the home that he and his wife once shared. The phone call is odd but interesting timing as Mike had a nightmare of the summer home just before the call of a young girl called Kyra running out of the house. Moments later, all the windows in the house shatter from the inside. Interestingly, the call from the janitor is to inform Mike that all the windows in the house have been shattered, believing it to be the work of local youths!!!
In true King style, Dark Score Lake is a quaint but secluded town, the locals glaring as Mike drives through, and for me, this is when the story begins, and it did take a little too long to get there!!!!!
Now, even though I started to enjoy the story a lot more once at Dark Score Lake, some aspects did become a little over the top and ludicrous, making the story a little less believable. For example, the head of a moose that hangs in the living room, begins to communicate to Mike by clanging the bell that hangs around his neck, and magnetic letters on the fridge start to spell out words, with Mike believing that this is Jo trying to communicate with him. What I found unbelievable was Mike’s instant acceptance of this, not questioning it once!
After taking a trip into town, Mike comes across Kyra, the young girl from his nightmare, playing in the middle of the road. Intrigued, he gets out of the car, but then sees a car coming at full speed, and grabs Kyra, getting her out of danger. Kyra’s mother, Mattie (Melissa George), thanks Mike and tells him, humbly, that she is his biggest fan!! After being recommended where to eat the best burger in town, Mike starts to encounter the locals, some who are happy to have a “celebrity” in town, and warn him off Mattie. Mike does some digging himself about Jo as well and asks who she used to hang around with, during the months that she spent alone at the summer house while Mike was writing, the paranoia still surrounding him due to his own apparent infertility.
Back to the Mattie story, apparently she killed her husband after he tried to drown their daughter in the lake, and the father-in-law, Max Devore (William Schallert), who seems to own the town, has been trying to get custody of Kyra ever since. Now, Max Devore is a very strange character and almost reminded me of Judge Doom, played by Christopher Lloyd in “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”! He has surreal mannerisms with a grimace for a smile, but at the same time, no real character comes across, just an evil insanity that is a little difficult to understand. The whole story becomes even more surreal as Mike is dragged into the custody case after Max gets wind what happened with Kyra in the road. Mike publically ridicules the prosecutor as the prosecutor tries to put words in Mike’s mouth, and the whole meeting is over in seconds, Mike being the saviour of the day!! Mike leaves the room with Max and his very gothic looking wife clearly letting him know that he’s made a mistake, but again, there doesn’t seem to be any substance, nothing that would make you quiver at the knees!!!
Back to the summer house, and it is clear that Jo was an artist, with some beautiful paintings located all around the house. One of the more interesting pieces turns out to be a young black blues singer from 1939 called Sara Tidwell (Anika Noni Rose). In another surreal moment, Mike hears music coming from the basement. He goes down and finds an old record player, playing a song by Sara Tidwell. Again, I found myself screaming at the telly wondering why he isn’t questioning how the music was playing in the first place, shouldn’t you check the room for intruders of ghosts hiding in the shadows!!! Maybe because he wants to believe that this is his wife he isn’t questioning anything but logic can not just go out the window like that!!! Hmmm……..
Anyway, with the music playing, we see Mike imagining watching Sara Tidwell and her band perform back in 1939 at a local fair, with an alluring performance from Sara and some whooping going on in the audience. As the story moves on it becomes clear that there is another ghost in the summer house, possibly Saral, and one that the ghost of Jo appears to be afraid of. Some surreal dreams / visions happen as well, with Jo, Sara and Mattie appearing in a seductive manner to Mike, but quickly changing into decomposing bodies, with fantastic effects! Yummy!! And I thought, ok, Jo and Sara are dead but Mattie isn’t, so does that mean Mattie is going to die or in danger of death! Cause she certainly is not dead! Dunno, not sure that made sense…..
Anyway, we start to get to the crux of the story as Mike starts to believe that Jo wants him to help Mattie and Kyra. During a walk with Mattie, Mike references the title of the show as he tells her that he fells like nothing more than a bag of bones himself when it comes to writing, referencing a quote from Thomas Hardy, as without his wife he feels that he doesn’t have the energy or talent to do what he was born to do. Mattie tells Mike that she believes that Jo brought him to Dark Score Lake for that reason…….
It just feels rushed, sometimes with certain bits taking too long for onscreen viewing (although necessary for novel reading) and then not enough build up in some places to actually make the impact that I’m sure was intended. The acting from both Brosnan and George was ok, but you just can’t help feel that the script totally let them down in places. Certainly not enough substance and nearly not enough build up and you just can’t help but feel that Bag of Bones has been unnecessarily rushed! I have to admit some of the scenes really looked brilliant and some did actually have me on the edge of my seat. However, it has the potential to be great and my fear is that this will be yet another Steven King adaptation that has missed the boat yet again! Maybe Part 2 will lend more to the story and develop the whole “Beware of the Lake” warning and I may (hopefully!!) be proved wrong yet!!!
By Kirsty Wavish