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  1. Here’s the thing about this movie. It does boil the book down pretty well plot-wise, and I would say that it makes its political story more trackable, but if you are going to read the book, try to purge one element from your mind: the tone. The Dead Zone is not a gloomy book, not a moody book. It’s not foreboding. Its premise is that Johnny Smith is a nice guy. I believe King even narrates that early on. It’s like he was challenging himself to write a character whose descriptions are basic, not the emotionally tortured girl with psychokinesis, the blocked writer visiting his Mayberry stocked hometown, not the recovering alcoholic… just a guy, a nice guy. Think of Christopher Reeve from Superman: The Movie, John Lithgow from Garp, 2010 or Terms of Endearment, or even Walken from Brainstorm, the kind of character so not often played well that people miss how hard it is to do it as well as those guys did.

    The book is being with this guy. It’s like the first 200 pages of Pet Sematary, meet the Creeds, meet Jud Crandall, hang with them, aren’t they great neighbors? Don’t you want to sit on that porch too? Yes, hard things happen, and they do matter, but this guy’s resilience is as unflappable as his intelligence, so he’s affected, but toward seriousness, not … not the tone of Kamen’s score.

    I had to divorce the film from the book to finally appreciate it, because that tone is a big thing to shift, and even as I read it, I remember thinking how much this novel should not be working. At points, if people had asked “What’s happening,” the answer would have been, “Uh… he bought a house? 80 pages ago?” It riskily hinges on the notion that anything can be interesting, or any day faceable, if you’re with the right person, which is who he plays, and those qualities how the book feels. So try very hard to reset, if you can, at least the expected mood.

    If this was done in ol’ Stevie’s coke phase, I wonder if it’s the equivalent of McCartney’s Another Day, Ferry Cross the Mersey, or Two Of Us. Those, and a few other songs of his, always read to me as his “I Want” songs, like Dear Mr. Gable for Judy Garland, Money for the Beatles (tongue in cheek though it was), or the third song in every Disney musical. It’s believable that Paul’s dream could be of an average, trivial day in the world, something he hasn’t been able to have since he was 21. Maybe King was writing an un-tense guy, whose niceness made the world a friendly place for him, even amid losses and dangers, because he was so much not that, himself, at the time. I don’t know. But those songs? Maybe not Ferry, as released, but the other two, those are how most of the book feels, caring, while appropriately unruffled.

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