Screenwriter: William Goldman
Starring: James Caan, Kathy Bates, Richard Farnsworth, Frances Sternhagen, Lauren Bacall
Genres: Horror, Drama
MPAA Rating: Rated R for adult situations/language, violence
Release Dates: 11/30/90 (Wide Theatrical); 12/22/98 (Disc/Streaming)
Where to Watch: Rent/Buy — Apple+, Prime Video, etc.
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
Misery is essentially the first movie I watched during my self-quarantine, and one that is basically perfect viewing for being trapped in your home (unless you’re too freaked out by what transpires in the film). I’d been wanting to catch up on Oscar-winning performances that I missed, including this one that features Kathy Bates in her Best Actress-winning role as the kooky, villainous Annie Wilkes.
It’s really a two-person show, with James Caan giving a career-best performance, too, as the writer whose work Annie idolizes and she ends up keeping captive and torturing. Richard Farnsworth provides some solid supporting work as the local sheriff/detective who is determined to find the missing writer, who has been presumed dead.
Misery is about as good as any other Stephen King adaptation I’ve ever seen, although it may not approach the perfection of The Green Mile. Rob Reiner, in his first foray into the horror genre, has directed a very tense, edge-of-your-seat type of movie. Even if you know what’s coming and how the film ends — thankfully, I didn’t — the tension is very anxiety-inducing.
It certainly helps that Bates is absolutely terrifying, especially when she suddenly appears hovering over Caan. Unlike those you’d seen from other horror villains, her performance is not manic; rather, it is calculated and controlled (even the fits of rage). Bates somehow manages to make Annie despicable and frightening while feeling a mere iota of empathy for her; she is incredibly lonely and socially awkward (perhaps on the autism spectrum like yours truly?), although she is mostly to blame for her loneliness.
Regardless, when [SPOILERS] the writer kills her at the end, after a disturbing and violent fight between the two of them, you almost feel bad for her (but not really). The final shot and scene is particularly great, as you know Annie will continue to haunt Paul (the writer) and there will continue to be people who say they’re his “number one fan.”