Dolan and Beinbrink will be playing characters steeped in violence in their own ways, and the ‘IT’ crew must ensure that ‘Chapter Two’ deals with their arcs non-gratuitously.
One of the best things about Stephen King’s “IT” happens to be the book’s richness. We love and root for the Losers’ Club because their stories are otherworldly, yet real and relatable. Bill, Beverly, Ben, Richie, Eddie, Mike, and Stan have hopes and fears which feel palpable and understandable. These characters make the presence of a demented interdimensional clown — something that should be irrational and laughable — frightfully tangible and threatening for readers and viewers to identify with.
That said, the novel “IT” and its subsequent adaptations, including both the miniseries starring Tim Curry and now Andy Muschietti’s two-part cinematic version, have bolstered sweeter narratives with far fouler counterparts. As seen in IT: Chapter One, some characters (such as Henry Bowers) are inevitably going to be repulsive. Others who are innocent (like George Denbrough) will end up facing unspeakable tragedies.
According to Deadline, IT: Chapter Two is building up a notable supporting cast to fill the shoes of important characters who will fit into these categories of cruelty and adversity. Xavier Dolan, most famous for directing acclaimed films such as Mommy and I Killed My Mother, will play Adrian Mellon, a gay man living in Derry, Maine, who is a victim of a horrendous hate crime. Chapter Twowill also tap the talents of Will Beinbrink (I Saw the Light) to play Tom Rogan, the abusive husband of Beverly Marsh (Jessica Chastain).
As I’ve written in the past, Chapter One made a number of crucial changes to its plot and characters in the process of translating King’s convoluted narrative to the big screen. These deviations can present new challenges in tackling portions of the novel that correspond with Chapter Two. Some of them may rob characters of their agency in the sequel, depending on how the film ultimately plays out. We see an unfortunate inkling of that in Mike Hanlon’s potential adult storyline.
However, if there was ever an inexorably preferable character arc in Chapter One compared to the novel or even the miniseries, it’s Beverly’s. Her characterization in the film allows her to find strength and power despite her fears. There are even moments of pureness for Beverly amidst the chaos of her life in Muschietti’s first movie, and she gets to practically lead the Losers’ Club on a number of occasions.
As a character, Beverly cannot escape the terror of her budding sexuality; it’s the root of her fears that extends to the oppressiveness of the male gaze. Frustratingly, Beverly is sexualized to an exceeding amount throughout King’s novel. Thus, it’s actually a relief that Chapter One was able to tone down some of those racier elements while keeping her anxieties intact in spirit.
Muschietti’s film isn’t perfect, though. It annoyingly ends Beverly’s arc on a hiccup, giving her and Ben Hanscom a “true love’s kiss” moment that feels discordant to the rest of her proactive storyline. Still, in Chapter One, Beverly at least owns and defends herself as a girl on the verge of womanhood, which proves promising for her subsequent characterization as an adult.
How will this then affect Beverly’s journey in Chapter Two? When we meet Beverly 27 years later, she is trapped in a terrible relationship with Tom, and the novel “IT” is brutal about making sure we know that she has been victimized by her husband. But Beverly isn’t devoid of quiet strength, and that determination and potency will be her, and the audience’s, biggest asset against such an abhorrent character in Chapter Two.
In this way, I don’t mean to undermine Beinbrink’s performance before he even has a chance to actually do anything. Chapter Two will undoubtedly be a breakout role for him because as far as supporting parts go, this one will definitely be memorable. Although to be remembered for playing such a repugnant person is really unfortunate.
The character of Adrian Mellon will also be a striking one, albeit a far more dreadful story used to depict the continued evil that lingers in Derry long after the Losers have apparently gotten rid of It. Adrian lives in Derry with his partner Don. The latter is desperate to escape the confines of the small, sleepy town because he is acutely aware of both the violent homophobic rhetoric as well as the perniciousness that permeates their home. Don only stays because Adrian has grown fond of the quaint life. However, as it turns out, his affection for Derry is no match for its awful, dark prejudices. Adrian is eventually violently attacked by a group of teenagers, bullies not unlike Henry Bowers and his gang in Chapter One.
As with other concentrated depictions of violence in King’s novel, this subplot is ruthless and absolutely discomfiting to read. While it works to exemplify the utter immorality lurking beneath the veneer of Derry, Adrian’s arc could be dangerously gratuitous in the film sequel. Violence against LGBT people is a very real problem and something that the IT filmmakers absolutely have to be mindful of when depicting even a fictionalized version of it.
For Dolan’s part, he’s played long-suffering characters in the past. His own feature, Tom at the Farm, particularly puts the main character (which he plays) through the emotional wringer. The eponymous Tom not only grieves his late boyfriend Guillaume, but he must also contend with some eerie and conflicted feelings as he visits Guillaume’s family to deliver the news. I have no doubt in Dolan’s ability to deliver a compelling performance. But more pertinently, embodying the tragedy of Adrian Mellon with such a familiar face will undoubtedly heighten the impact of the plotline’s violence.
Clearly, as easy as it is to focus on the positives that lie at the heart of “IT”– camaraderie, friendship, found family, and the power of belief – there is no denying that every iteration of the story can be grossly imperfect. “IT” is a messy book with many unnecessarily vicious and cruel subplots, portraying the nastiest of humanity in an effort to highlight the true strength of resilience and unconditional love. Regardless of whether these elements mesh with the story in context, they are still painful to consume.
This fact implores the filmmakers of Chapter Two to be especially careful when dealing with Tom and Adrian, even though they are but supporting characters of a wider whole. At least Muschietti and the rest of the IT crew have – to some extent – injected agency where it seems to be lacking in the first film, proving that tactfulness is possible in the filmmaking process of such a complicated narrative. In light of the ugly plotlines in Chapter Two, they really need to keep up this practice.