‘11.22.63’: Critics praise performances of James Franco and Chris Cooper in new Stephen King limited series

Hulu’s new limited series “11.22.63” just wrapped up its eight-episode run to rave reviews from some of the nation’s leading TV critics. They embraced this lavish adaptation of Stephen King‘s bestseller about an English teacher (James Franco) who, with the help of his pal (Chris Cooper), travels back in time to try and prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. One of the advantages to a streaming service is that it is so easy to catch up with programs that you might have missed and this one is well worth a weekend binge. 

Among those who were most enthusastic with their endorsements for the production and the performances were these four well-respected reviewers:

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Ken Tucker (Yahoo) observes: “This adaptation overseen by producer Bridget Carpenter is suspenseful, moving, and funny, exactly the qualities you expect from a story derived by the latter-day King, whose work has grown only more emotionally complex over the years. Franco, who’s portrayed more than his share of eccentric or extreme characters, here plays Epping as an easygoing Everyman, a schoolteacher, one who gets caught up in what sounds like madness. The guy who runs his local diner, played by the wonderful Chris Cooper, shows him a portal to the past located in the pantry. (It’s a measure of how well King and Carpenter do their work here that you say, Sure, I’ll buy that — let’s get inside that closet!)”

Matt Zoller Seitz (New York) finds: “The net effect is ultimately intoxicating if you accept that the digressions are the point of the story, and are in fact inevitable given the sort of person Jake is. Franco is a very good actor … and he’s in rare form here. A lot of the production consists of simply following Jake around as he talks to people and listens to people and improvises lies to get himself out of tight spots (at one point he says he served in Korea in a MASH unit, the 4077th). Franco just has to be present for the other actors and listen to them and feel whatever they’re feeling. Considering how terrific most of the character actors in ‘11.22.63’ are, that must have been a pleasurable job.”

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Hank Stuever (Washington Post) notes: “King’s work doesn’t always happily travel through the portal connecting the page to the TV screen, but Hulu scores with an impressively stout-hearted, eight-part adaptation of ’11/22/63.’ It’s a fun and easily absorbing thriller wrapped inside a cautionary tale about indulging in nostalgia and best of all, it has a definite and emotionally satisfying conclusion.”

And Verne Gay (Newsday) comments: “King’s a great storyteller, so blind faith is often rewarded, a big reason why so many of his books have been made into satisfying TV (and movie) adaptations. But the best ones start off simple and stay that way. Complexities, twists, even disjunctions will arrive but you’re so far down the wormhole of the story by that point that there’s no point in turning back, no reward in questioning them, either. You’re all in. King and his adaptation have you in their grip. And that is “11.22.63.”  

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