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THE SHINING

THE SHINING1980
R

The Shining is a 1980 horror film directed by Stanley Kubrick that was based off a Stephen King novel of the same name. It tells the story of Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) who takes a wintertime job as the live-in caretaker of the Overlook Hotel. With his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) and son Danny (Danny Lloyd) in tow, the family settles in as the hotel's only "guests" for the winter. Jack spends much of his time on a writing project that he hopes he will complete during his months of isolation; Wendy and Danny spend their time playing and doing whatever they can to pass the slow-moving days. When Jack, who has been on the wagon for five months, starts to have problems with his project, he quickly becomes irritable and prone to violent outbursts, especially towards his wife. At the same time, Danny, who has some form of telepathy, starts to see visions of horrible atrocities committed at the hotel in the past, drastically changing his overall demeanor. Wendy does her best to sort out the problems with both Jack and Danny, but as time continues to pass, the tension continues to rise until it reaches a boiling point.

There's much, much more to the story - well, I should say screenplay - than what I've outlined above, but right now, it all seems rather jumbled. I have not read Stephen King's original novel, but from everything I've heard, King himself did not care for Kubrick's handling of the story (it ultimately led him to write and produce his own version of The Shining which was made into a TV movie in 1997). That being said, I'm sure there are some intricacies that the book fleshes out than the movie ever could have, but I found myself feeling a little bit lost for most of the film. I understand that there's a level of ambiguity that the movie is supposed to express, but when nearly everything that's said or done is deliberately ambiguous, it makes a film very difficult to follow.

We get an all-star performance from Mr. Nicholson, but by 1980, everyone was already expecting this type of work from him. Although it's not my favorite Nicholson role, it definitely ranks right near the top. He brings a very manic energy to a screenplay that moves extremely, and at times excessively, slow, and he helps give the movie a little bit of life. Once you get past Nicholson, however, the acting plummets quite far. I thought young Danny Lloyd did a good job with his part, coming across every bit as creepy as I'm sure Kubrick wanted. In the beginning of the film, it seems as though the story centers around him, and for a child actor, he does a great job of holding it all together in the early running. Shelley Duvall - who was nominated for a Razzie Award for her role - proves to be the weakest link here as I couldn't take her character seriously at any point of the film. She always had an expression like a deer in the headlights, and all of her more emotional scenes were so over-the-top that I felt pushed away by her character. Every time she "graced" the screen, I wanted to look away, and that's not good when you've only got three characters for most of the film.

I also had major issue with the music in the film. As I explained in my post about how my grading system works, the music in a film plays a very important role. The score I give for this criterion doesn't come down to whether it's good or bad (although the music in The Shining is bad, in my opinion); rather, it's more of a question of whether it fits well with the movie. In a sense, it should complement a film without standing out and being the only thing you notice in a scene. That's really where The Shining goes wrong. I can see why certain compositions were used for certain scenes, but they were so overbearing and so interrupting that they completely took me out of a few tense moments. I haven't had a film's music remove me from the film itself this much since I saw 2007's There Will Be Blood.

Ultimately, I know I'll probably take some hits for the fact that I don't completely adore this flick. IMDb users currently rate it as the fiftieth greatest movie of all time, but right now, I can't bring myself to agree. It's still one of the most iconic films in history, with memorable lines like "Here's Johnny!" and "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy." Perhaps I'll give it another go in a couple of months - subsequent viewings can always help shed light on previous questions. Until then, the score below is the best I can give The Shining.

Movie Review Summary:Grade: C+
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