One of my favorite books ever is The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, which tells the tale of a governess working on a remote estate. As the story unfolds, it is unclear if the young woman is seeing ghosts or losing her mind, and either way, the reader is unsure if the children are working together to push her over the edge. The book is a masterpiece in ambiguity and a chilling ghost story. Anytime there’s a chance to catch a fresh adaptation of it, I jump at it, even if it does not look very good, like this year’s The Turning.
The Turning sets the story in the 1990s, making the governess, Kate (Mackenzie Davis), an in-home tutor for a sweet little girl, Flora (Brooklynn Prince). Kate and Flora are alone on the giant estate with the severe housekeeper, Mrs. Grose (Barbara Marten), until Flora’s older brother, Miles (Finn Wolfhard), is expelled from boarding school. Once Miles arrives home, things start to go awry for Kate.
In addition to the new setting, The Turning also gives some tweaks to the ghost story itself, adding a #MeToo element to the dynamic between the two characters at the center of the haunting. I thought this twist to the classic tale was intriguing. I also thought the 1990s were a smart choice for setting the story. It strands the characters out in a giant house without cellphones, but with grunge rock and a flashback wardrobe.
I was pleasantly surprised by this movie. For the most part, The Turning is a faithful adaptation to the novel, despite the updates. It does, however, either majorly change or forgo a couple of the most striking images in the book, which the 1961 adaptation, The Innocents,used to great effect. More problematic to me, the film stumbles over the novel’s ambiguity. Just when I thought that the film had taken a stance on what is happening to Kate, it jumpcuts to an alternate version of events. Whereas Henry James left a puzzle for the audience, The Turning leaves a bit of a mess.
The performances in The Turning are solid and there is no shortage of jump scares or ambiance. There are much better adaptations of this story available, though, so for its sloppy ending, I rate it 3.5/5 stars.
The Turning was written by Carey and Chad Hayes and directed by Floria Sigismondi. It runs 94 minutes and is rated PG-13.
Streaming on Netflix, The Pharmacist offers a real-life drama that is almost too much to believe. If I had read a novel that followed this same plot, I would think that the author needed to choose just one storyline. The four-part documentary follows Dan Schneider, a pharmacist from a New Orleans suburb, as he not only solves his son’s murder, but also launches a crusade against doctors running pain clinics, as well as Purdue Pharma itself, for their role in the opioid epidemic.
At times, I thought that the tactics Mr. Schneider uses verged on criminal (HIPAA, anyone?) and I often wished that the documentary did not rely so much on its subject’s own audio recordings, but the story is so unbelievable and full of strange twists and turns that it is almost a much-watch, particularly for those interested in the opioid epidemic and how it started. It is a quick binge-watch with many shocking moments.
The Pharmacist runs for 3 hours 35 minutesand is rated TV-MA.