Misery (1990)

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

Rated R

Director: Rob Reiner

Studio: Columbia Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video

5 responses to “Misery (1990)

  1. Good review, Richard. I found the movie to be pretty suspenseful, not really knowing what “Annie” was going to do next. I really liked the part where she did the “hobbling” act on Paul. That was pretty unexpected and different. I thought that Kathy Bates did really well in this movie. One minute you think she was a kind, caring person then the next she blows with rage, which of course in a lot of suspenseful movies this is the case. I guess you could say that it was predictable in that sense. I also thought it was kindof humorous when she brought her pig in and then snorting while Paul was looking at her like, “You are psychotic.” But overall, I thought this was a good movie depicting the obsession of a fan. I’ve watched it many many times.

    • Thanks for your comment Jen. The part where she snorted like a pig would be enough to send me over the edge and I would have found some way to run out of that house broken ankles and all.

  2. I like the film poster – looks very impacting. That blood red against the blue…

  3. I have to be in a certain mood to watch it but I pull it off the shelf every couple years and definitely consider it to be a horror classic. Kathy Bates hit the ball right out of the park with this role, one of her shining moments.

  4. Joseph Kearny

    It’s a classic and so is Bate’s performance.

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