Misery
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FAQ for
Misery (1990) More at IMDbPro »

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A Note Regarding Spoilers

The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Misery can be found here.

What is 'Misery' about?

Novelist Paul Sheldon (James Caan), who has written nine books featuring the character Misery Chastain, is critically injured when his car skids off a bluff in a heavy snowstorm while on his way home from the Silver Creek Lodge in Colorado where he has been writing a new book. He is rescued by former nurse Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) who prizes herself as his 'number one fan.' Annie takes him home, sets his fractures, and nurses him back to health. Good Samaritan though she may seem, Annie has a dark side that comes out when she reads Paul's latest novel and discovers that he has killed off Misery.

Yes. Misery is a 1987 novel by American horror writer Stephen King. The novel was adapted for the screen by American screenwriter William Goldman.

No. The movie's opening scenes clearly show that he was alone on the mountain road when he started skidding. However, just before his car runs off the cliff, Annie's vehicle can be seen approaching from the opposite direction. Alhtough Annie later admits that she knew he was at the Silver Creek Lodge, she was actually driving home from town, while Paul was driving from the lodge into town. It's a case of crossing each others' paths at the right time. In the book, Annie reveals that she didn't even believe it was Paul Sheldon at first. Then she checks his driver's license and realizes it really is.

No. Misery's Child was already in publication and about to be released to the market even before Paul's accident. In fact, Annie picks up a hardbound copy at the bookstore not long after rescuing Paul. Paul had killed off Misery so that he could concentrate on more serious writing about subjects other than 19th Century romance (in the novel it's explained that Paul had grown sick of writing about Misery Chastain) and had with him in the car a new book, an untitled manuscript (in the novel, it's titled Fast Cars) completely removed from the Misery books. He let Annie read it because she had saved his life and because she was his 'number one fan.' Unfortunately, the book made Annie upset because of the amount of profanity, and she made him burn it. She did not make him burn Misery's Child.

Viewers are torn on an answer to this question, some saying that she knew and that's why she knocked over the glass of wine, others saying she didn't know and the wine spill was an accident. The movie does not provide conclusive evidence in either direction. It reveals only that, at the time of the dinner, Annie knew Paul had been out of his locked bedroom because the ceramic penguin had been moved, but she doesn't yet know how he got out. During the dinner, in fact, she seemed to be genuinely under the impression that she was actually making headway with him. It wasn't until he got out the second time, looked at her scrapbook, and took the butcher knife that she realized he was plotting against her, so she searched his room and found the knife as well as the hairpin 'key'. Most viewers conclude that Annie did not notice the missing Novril after Paul's first outing, so she did not think he had laced her wine, concluding that the spill was most likely an accident caused by Annie's quick reaction after she knocked over the burning candle. As for the book, there's no clue there because the wine-spilling scene never happened. Paul does think of scenarios where he might be able to kill or wound Annie, one in which he contemplates putting some Novril into a tub of her ice-cream, but he rejects this on the basis that Novril has a very bitter taste that Annie would probably notice.

No. Novril is a a fictional medication made up for the story. It's described in the book as a powerful, highly addictive analgesic. It comes in pill form and is bitter to taste. In the film, Novril is a capsule and is tasteless, making it easier for Paul to slip into her wine. Before the story begins in Stephen King's novel, there's a disclaimer saying that Novril is not a real drug.

Buster (Richard Farnsworth) and his charming wife Virginia (Frances Sternhagen) are characters made up for the movie. At first, Buster knows only that Paul Sheldon is the author of the Misery novels and has been staying at the Silver Creek Lodge working on a new book. After inspecting Paul's wrecked car, he concludes that someone pried open the car door to get him out. According to Buster, one possibility is that the bodies of both Paul and his savior will be found after the snow melts. The other is that Paul is alive somewhere. While he waits for the spring thaw, Buster decides to read the Misery novels. At one point in his reading, he comes across a quote that rings a bell. 'There is a justice higher than that of man. I will be judged by Him.' The quote sounds familiar, so he pours through some archived newspaper articles until he notices the exact quote attributed to Annie Wilkes after her trial. That's when everything clicks, and he starts to suspect Annie.

How does the movie end?

Paul finishes the book and asks for his usual -- a cigarette, matches to light it, and a glass of Dom Prignon champagne. Annie brings them, but he sends her for a second glass so that she can share in the toast. While Annie is gone, Paul douses the entire manuscript with lighter fluid. When Annie returns, he taunts her, saying, 'Does she finally marry Ian or will it be Winthorne? It's all right here,' and then sets it on fire. Annie goes ballistic and attacks Paul. In their fight, she falls and hits her head on his typewriter but gets up again as he tries to crawl away. He finally smashes her in the face with a cast-iron paperweight of a pig. In the epilogue (18 months later), Paul (using a cane) meets his agent (Lauren Bacall) in a restaurant to discuss his new book. As they discuss him writing a nonfiction book about his experience with Annie, a waitress looking exactly like Annie comes over and asks if he is Paul Sheldon. Her face changes, showing that she is not Annie, and she says, 'I'm your number one fan.' Paul replies, 'That's sweet of you.'

In the movie, no. Paul burned that book. The new novel that he is presenting to his agent is titled The Higher Education of J. Philip Stone and is not a Misery book. In King's novel, however, Paul saved the actual manuscript by hiding it under the bed and substituting blank pages with just a title page on top to make Annie think that he was burning the actual manuscript. It was subsequently published as Misery Returns.

Those who have both seen the movie and read the book say that there are some big differences between them. The biggest one is that that the story in the book is set entirely in Annie's house. There's no subplot about Buster or Paul's agent, which serves to focus on the search for Paul. In the novel, Paul is pretty much on his own trying to get away from Annie. Annie is presented as more psychotic and her mood swings are accentuated. She cuts off one of Paul's feet with an axe rather than hobbling him and also cuts off a thumb with an electric knife when he complains about the typewriter missing a letter. In the novel, Paul is addicted to Novril; not so in the movie. The ending is quite different in that Paul saves his original manuscript and burns a stack of unused paper with only a cover saying Misery's Return.

In Misery, Stephen King does not have a cameo.

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