Best-selling novelist Paul Sheldon is on his way home from his Colorado hideaway after completing his latest book, when he crashes his car in a freak blizzard. Paul is critically injured, but is rescued by former nurse Annie Wilkes, Paul's "number one fan", who takes Paul back to her remote house in the mountains (without bothering to tell anybody). Unfortunately for Paul, Annie is also a headcase. When she discovers that Paul has killed off the heroine in her favorite novels, her reaction leaves Paul shattered (literally)... Written by
Andrew Backhouse (andback74)
An entertaining, very well acted and intelligent thriller.
Successfully adapting a good book into a movie is not easy. There are numerous reasons why this is a hard task, one of which is the Hollywood rule of movie adaptations that suggests the following:Many bad books make great movies,but most great books make bad movies. This is true for most movies but MISERY is a definite exception.
MISERY is the story of a writer being rescued by his number one fan who he soon discovers is a psycho. It's a simple but effective premise and one which grabs us from the start and doesn't let go until the very end. The movie is all the more frightening when one considers that it could actually happen.
It's very good when judged on its own, but is also one of the best Stephen King adaptations.
The acting is the primary reason why the film succeeds. Kathy Bates is amazing in her ability to switch moods in an instant. "You better pray that I'm in a good mood. Because if I die,you die,"she says. And we don't doubt her for a second. She's so convincingly able to change emotions that we never know whether she's entering with a bowl of soup in her hand or a sludge hammer. It's this unpredictability that keeps the movie going. When the script calls for her to go over the top we realize that virtually no other actress could do what she does here. Hence the Oscar. It's a tricky performance because one misstep and it becomes ridiculous. But it works. And with Annie Wilkes, Kathy Bates has given movie history one of its scariest villains. As the bed ridden writer, James Caan does a good job as well. Although there isn't perhaps as much empathy as in the book,he still has some fine moments where we sympathize entirely with him. The supporting actors are fun to watch, although they aren't given much screen time. They don't need to because the film is basically a two person picture.
The tension between the two characters is sustained nicely throughout. There are times when Paul hates Annie or Annie hates Paul and there's irony in that they both are dependent on each other(Paul needs her to stay alive and Annie needs him to write the new book for her) even if Paul's reason is the more logical of the two. It's basically a battle of wits the entire film.
Although it is a horror film,the terror is gradual. The entire movie plays around the notion that we never quite know what Wilkes is thinking or what mood she's in. It's ingenious the way certain scenes are built up and then simmer down, while others seem calm and then explode.
Another part of the film's effectiveness lies is its ability to create sympathy for Caan's character. During the hobbling scene(which is by far the film's most memorable)the audience's sympathy is pushed to the extreme. Although very painful to watch, I found this to be the best scene in the film. We are allowed to experience Wilkes' psychotic behaviour at its scariest. It becomes clear that she will not let Sheldon go and wants no one else to have him. The entire development,build up and pay off of this scene is remarkable.
This is a change of pace for Rob Reiner,but he does a nice job,demonstrating his considerable range as a director. He handles it with a certain smoothness that feels right for the movie. The camera work employed here is excellent. Some shots in particular such as having the camera placed in the bed staring directly at the door,help to create moments of claustrophobic suspense. The stark cinematography by Barry Sonnenfeld is also good,especially in the night scenes. They're lit in such a way that even a closed door looks scary.
There are also also moments of dark humor which are enjoyable. One scene has Annie,extremely excited about the new novel, asking Paul if he likes Liberace. He pauses for just a second,considering Annie will most likely go crazy if he says no,before replying correctly. He and we both know better.
The build up to the end is very well done. In fact it's only during the slasher inspired finale that MISERY dips a bit. That's not to say it's horrible. To the contrary, it's quite exciting, as Sheldon finally fights back against his captor. It's the part after this that is somewhat annoying due to it abruptly cutting from a character being in one location to an entirely different one without any explanation of how they got there. One would've been nice but this doesn't detract from the movie's enjoyment. In fact there are almost no lags in all of the film's running time. Not one wasted scene is to be found. Everything propels one scene to the next like it should. We, like Paul, are constantly on the edge of our seat (or bed, in his case).
MISERY doesn't contain many surprises, since we pretty much know what to expect in terms of how it will all end but it does have its share of chills. But the best thing about this movie is its staying power. It remains fresh when you see it again and again. Indeed, MISERY will stay with you for a long while after it's over. A testament to the nail biting story and an unforgettable performance by Kathy Bates.
Rating: **** out of *****
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