By Richard Winters
My Rating: 6 out of 10
4-Word Review: She’s his biggest fan.
Paul Sheldon (James Caan) is a writer who has just finished his latest novel. On the way back to his publisher (Lauren Bacall) he gets stranded in a freak snowstorm and ends up being ‘saved’ by Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) who is his ‘number one fan’. He is injured so she takes him to her nearby house where she proceeds to make him a helpless prisoner to her tormented and delusional mind.
The story has some interesting underlying elements. The film doesn’t really explore them, but does at least touch on it. It is the metaphor of the artist and the public. He is an educated man and yet his stories appeal to those with less education and what he puts into his work isn’t always what they take out of it. He doesn’t really like these stories and wants to expand his craft, but can’t because the formulaic stuff is what sells. In a way Paul was already trapped by Annie long before he ever got to her house and it is a sad dilemma a lot of artistic people have to deal with.
Bates as Annie plays the part really well. She is the ordinary, bland looking woman that you would never think about or consider dangerous. Her strange, erratic behaviors are slowly revealed until in the end the complete monster inside is unleashed. Screenwriter William Goldman, director Rob Reiner, and Bates herself show a good understanding of the character and what makes her tick. They create a woman who is complex, real, frightening, and at times even sad and pathetic.
Caan is a good competent actor however any one of number of actors could have played the part and maybe even done better. Yet you really sense and feel his confinement and ever growing frustration and when he finally revolts at the end you love it!
On the whole the thriller is pretty standard. There are some tense moments, but it is also routine and by the numbers. I thought it was too well lighted as a good psychological thriller always works best with a lot of shadows. The room Paul is trapped in looks more like it was done on a sound stage than in a real home and the film needed a few more unexpected twists.
My Rating: 6 out of 10
Released: November 30, 1990
Runtime: 1Hour 47Minutes
Director: Rob Reiner
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video