Paul Sheldon used to write for a living. Now, he's writing to stay alive.
Year of Release: 1990
Running Time: 108 minutes (1:48)
Director: Rob Reiner
James Caan ... Paul Sheldon
Kathy Bates ... Annie Wilkes
Richard Farnsworth ... Buster
Frances Sternhagen ... Virginia
Lauren Bacall ... Marcia Sindell
Graham Jarvis ... Libby
Jerry Potter ... Pete
Rob Reiner ... Helicopter Pilot (uncredited)
Misery the Pig ... Herself
Novelist Paul Sheldon (Cann) doesn't remember the blinding blizzard that sent his car spinning off the road. Nor does he remember being nursed back from unconsciousness. All he remembers is waking up in the home of Annie Wilkes (Bates) - a maniacal fan who is bent on keeping her favorite writer as her personal prisoner... for the rest of his 'cock-a-doodie' life!
Misery, the movie that reminds us why it's hip to be square. Afterall, ain't nobody interested in holding you hostage, breaking your ankles, an forcing you to do their taxes. Agents hate this movie. Scratch that, agents cringe in terror at this movie. Consider their position. Their livelihood is running around, more or less unguarded (unless they've got mega celebrities for clients) 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And you've got obsessed fans out there that make Kathy Bates look like June Cleaver. Poor wretches wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat an all they can see is Kathy Bates, the embodiment of their financial desolation. And while 10% aint too shabby when we're talkin' Hollywood dollars, 10% of zero is pretty slim pickings. How many times, one must wonder, did William Shatner nearly fall prey to a stampede of Clearasil drenched nerds yearning to point out anachronisms and production goofs? How often has Robert Pattinson only just escaped the packs of teenage girls with premeditated gang rape on their minds? Some things man is not meant to know. But I know this much, the occupational stress of an agent rivals only that of the Al-Queda #2. So lets all settle down a little bit here, if we could, an stop tryin' to pants celebrities so you can go home and make love to their Dockers, alright? They're practically people, and they deserve some respect. Alright, well, while I admit it's difficult to absorb knowledge with Kathy Bates five inches from your face ranting at you like R. Lee Ermy after you drank his last tall boy, I was able to pick up a few snippets of insight from this one.
First, contrary to what you might think, having a pig wander around your house does not throw your living environment into disarray. So accurate is this statement, that despite the pig, you can still spot a figurine that's been turned slightly askew from across the room. Second, medication doesn't expire or lose its effectiveness over time. We know this because in spite of the newspaper articles in the scrapbook being heavily yellowed from time, the medication still eases James Caan's debilitating pain. So don't listen to your physicians, it's all just a scam to get you to buy more medication. An third, even in the Colorado Rockies, where it snows enough to bury a car in a 24 hour period, the Game Show Network is available to people who live 15 miles from the nearest anything. Now those facts are fine an dandy, and should probably help you out at least three or four times on any given day, but Misery gives us something more. A learning opportunity seldom encountered, and even more seldom articulated in such a detailed fashion. I refer, of course, to proper cursing etiquette. As Kathy Bates explains in the movie (while foaming at the mouth), James Caan's new book is riddled with profanity. Thus, rendering it completely terrible. But what she also illustrates is that, even though she (and we) may not realize it, cursing is in fact not a serious moral infraction. Only very specific words are truly offensive. Throughout much of the movie we see her spouting Ned Flanders-esque profanity. But it's been adequately sanitized, rendering it harmless. What nobody (including Kathy) seems to grasp here is that, even if you use a word approved by the morality police, your SENTIMENT remains the same. But that kinda logic isn't gonna fly in the real world, so I'll now provide a list that should help us all to become better, morally aware citizens:
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Cunt Hoo Hoo
Dick Wee Wee
Cameltoe Spandex Malfunction
Dyke Strong Willed
Jizz Baby Formula
Bastard Love Child
Bitch Ex Wife
Now, lets all be on our best behavior, alright? You can no longer feign ignorance.
The movie begins with a swanky lookin' guy (James Caan) in his study, hammering away at his typewriter, not at all crippled the way most of us would be without access to a backspace key. He's a big fancy pants author an he's just finished his latest book titled: Untitled. Obviously he's ripped the name off, anyone that's ever used an Apple computer's used that one before. But anyway, upon completion he hops in his vintage Mustang an sets off down the most winding road he can find, on the snowiest day of the year, with no traction tires. And wouldn't ya know it, his car ends up careening off the road, sailing over the tree tops and coming to rest in the waiting arms of a rocky hillside after skidding 50 yards on it's roof. Nice distance, though. At that point, James' thoughts flash back to a discussion he'd had with his agent about whether his adoring fans are gonna enjoy him killing off the main character from the popular series of books he's written. I'm sure everyone will be cool with it, it's probably not important. What is important, is that a burly mountain woman (Kathy Bates) just happened to be nearby when he tried to set the distance record for yards skidded by a domestic automobile, an crowbars his door open, jostles his spine around real good, an starts kiss rapin' him til he starts breathin' again. She then slings him over her shoulders like a deer carcass an hauls his butt back to her place so she can get to work taxidermyin' him. Oh she wouldn't do that, she seems like she's on the level. A couple days later, James wakes up to see what a fine job she's done getting his bones to quit pokin' outta his skin an keeping the hemorrhaging to a minor trickle. Lucky for him, she's not only his #1 fan, but she's also a nurse. Unluckily for him, the road's got more snow on it than the summit of Everest an her phone line's makin' a noise like an alligator chewin' a sheet of aluminium foil. Elsewhere, his agent's lookin' all over for him cause her 10% commission check hasn't come in yet an her rent's due. She calls the local sheriff's office an tells Sheriff Podunk where he'd been staying and where he was heading, an Podunk tells her he'll get around to it when the semi finals of the state tractor pulling championship get done. Back at the happy homestead, Kathy's got her eye on James' manuscript he's been writing, an since she did drag his ass outta the twisted metal an snap most of his bones back into place, he figures it'd be okay if she reads it an tells him what she thinks.
After awhile Kathy comes back to feed James his supper an she's got this look on her face like she just put on some slippers an found a mound of dog shit with her toes. James asks her whats the dillio an she says she doesn't like his potty mouth. He tries to explain to her that everyone talks like that but about that time she flips her shit an starts screaming about how she doesn't talk that way and for that reason he's completely wrong an should die in a fire. But she cools off pretty quickly an tells 'em she's sorry for the mood swing an that she loves 'em an she'll never do it again. I'm thinkin' she doesn't get many second dates. Anywho, Sheriff Podunk has finally gotten around to takin' a drive out the way James was goin', when he spots a decapitated pine tree an heads down the hill to have a look around. After he makes a few snow angels an determines that nothing's out of sorts, he heads back to the car an we pan back to see the front wheels, just out of the sheriff's visual range. Back at Casa de Mood Swing, Kathy comes home with a copy of James' series finale an James is startin' to get a little nervous on account of her goin' gonzo earlier an spending so much time talkin' about how she loves the main character (Misery) of his books so much. Unfortunately, Kathy's one of those people that gets a new book an goes through it in about half an hour an she's already nearing the conclusion. She likes it so much that she has to bring Misery (her potbelly pig) in to meet James an ask him if this parasite she just pinched off looks more like a ringworm or a tapeworm. Then she starts tellin' him about how his books pretty much pulled her together so she could become the sane, well-adjusted woman she is today after her husband left her an James gets this look on his face like he's tryin' to remember when the last time he updated his will was. Late that night (or early that morning) after James is asleep she busts into the room an starts screamin' like her doctor's just made her go on an all-vegetarian diet an starts swingin' chairs like Balls Mahoney while babbling incoherently like Rush Limbaugh when he gets real frazzled. She's able to calm herself enough to tell him that he's fuckin' screwed cause she never told anyone where he was like she said she did an then leaves to go find some cougars to tear limb from limb 'til she gets some of this frustration worked out.
So once James gets done pissin' himself, he flops outta bed to make sure his compound fractures still hurt an drags himself over to the door. It's locked. James has sad face. The next morning Kathy finally comes home an hauls his dead weight back into bed like nothing happened, and better still, she's got a surprise for him. His new manuscript on a barbecue grill, just what he always wanted! Oh Kathy, you shouldn't have. She thinks he should burn it. He thinks she should get bent, but she's pretty insistent an he'd rather she not fracture him in any locations that aren't already, so he lights the match an torches the manuscript. You ever seen that look guys who played highschool football get sometimes when they're watching pro ball an it's obvious they're thinking about what could have been? James has that right now. Meanwhile, Sheriff Podunk's been flyin' around in a chopper lookin' for any sign of James, but he's still not getting anywhere. By this point, James starts figurin' he'd better figure a way outta this place, so he stops takin' his pain pills an starts stuffin' 'em in the mattress for safe keepin'. What happens next is about what you'd expect from any obsessed fan that kidnapped their favorite writer. Kathy sets up a place for James to do some rewrites. An by rewrites, she means: do the whole fucking thing over again an this time don't screw it up or she'll make his face match the rest of him. He's figured out by now he's gonna catch more flies with honey than with his bedpan an plays nice with her. But that's only cause he's spotted a hairpin on the floor, so he tells her the paper she bought smudges too easy an could she pretty please get him a different kind. What a crybaby. But it works, sort of. She has another episode an slams the shitty paper down on his shattered legs, but she does leave to fetch the new paper. By now, she's got a wheel chair for him to roll around in an after he picks the lock with the hairpin, he realizes the rest of the place is locked up tighter Mitt Romney's income tax paperwork an the phone's got no guts. Then he bumps an endtable with his wheelchair an damn near breaks a little figurine that'd been sitting on it. He's able to catch it before it shatters on the floor, but fails to return it to its precise location. After he locates the pain medication stash, Kathy pulls in an he has to book it back to his room an hide the pills before she figures out what he's been up to. She knows he's been up to something, cause he's sweating like O.J. Simpson when his verdict was bein' read (the first time), but he claims it's cause he's in a god-awful amount of pain.
Well, as long as he's in pain, she's not too mad. So she puts 'em back in bed. Back at the scene of the crash, another chopper has finally found James' car, and for collectors of vintage vehicles, it's not a pretty sight. Everybody on the scene figures James is bear bait by now, but Sheriff Podunk and Deputy Wife (Cliff Clavin's mother on the TV series Cheers) notice the door was pried open an that it looks as though he was drug from the vehicle. Podunk's on the case now, an he starts reading all of James' books for some clue as to where he is or why he doesn't check the road conditions before going on long trips. Meanwhile, James continues stashing his pills an figures he'd better start typing something before she gets mad an uses 'em for a trampoline, so he caves an gets crackin'. But James aint tryin' hard enough, an she tells 'em his plot has more holes than a Dick Cheney voodoo doll an that his "best" better get a whole lot fucking better. After some more toiling he gets it right an Kathy does her happy dance. Seizing the moment, James asks her to have dinner with him to celebrate. She's either real dumb or real lonely, cause she says yes, an after complimenting her meat loaf profusely, he proposes a toast an sends her off to get candles so it'll be all proper like. He's got her where he wants her now, cause when she's gone he spikes her wine with all his pill powder so she'll go nappy nap an... GOD DAMNIT. She spilled her glass. An James has this look on his face like he was about five seconds from sexing the prom queen when she decides she's changed her mind. So in the following days James keeps plugging away, Kathy continues dancing happily, and Sheriff Podunk keeps torturing himself with James' books. But that aint all James' doin'. Like any other prisoner, he's buffing up and biding his time. Waiting for his parole date so he'll be twice as strong, and twice as capable of committing felonious assault when the time is right. James is progressing pretty well, but the lousy weather brings Kathy down an she starts talkin' about her gun an how sometimes she gets an itchy trigger finger, then she leaves. Sleep tight, James. Seems like it's probably a good time for some insurance, so James sneaks out an grabs himself a kitchen knife an hides it under the mattress, but he also finds a scrap book of pleasant memories of newspaper clippings illustrating Kathy's descent into madness. Including, but not limited to; dead husband, dead infants from the hospital she worked, her incompetence to stand trial, and eventually, her escape from prison.
From James' perspective it doesn't change too much, he's no more screwed than he was five minutes ago, so he gets back in bed and waits for Kathy to return. He'll have a lovely, stabby present waitin' for her when she gets back. Only she never comes to check on him, so he has to put away his nerve until the next morning... oh dear. Seems she's found the figurine, not in its precise location. And James wakes up to the worst time he's ever had while being tied up. Then she starts tellin' him about how some jerks used to keep their bitches in line when they got caught stealin'. But a picture truly is worth 1000 words, so Kathy decides to demonstrate just what the jerks did with their slaves. She takes a short piece of 2x4 an puts it between James' ankles. Then she pulls out one of them big hammers they use in the circus on the High Striker game an bashes both his ankles inward til they flop around like 60 something titties with no bra an James starts screamin' like a Jew that found veal in his stew. The next morning, Sheriff Podunk spots Kathy heading into the general store cussin' (in her own, Ned Flanders kinda way) everyone in sight, an after the shopkeeper tells him she's been buyin' enough paper to keep the logging industry busy for the next three years, he heads for the local archive to see if he can find anything interesting on her an... yeah she just might have something to do with this. Egads, he's probably too scared to research anybody else in town after what he found on Kathy. Back at Chateau Ape Shit, James is done. Despite his superior intellect she always manages to be one step ahead of him an he's just fuckin' done. He's not even trying anymore. When she waves to him from outside, he gives her the finger an doesn't give a shit what she does about it. However, all is not lost. Sheriff Podunk is headed out that way to see if he can't bust this case wide open, an to get through all those god awful books as quick as he did, you know he's got grit. We'll cut it here before I surpass the number of pages in the movie's actual script on this plot description.
Alrighty, well this one's pretty popular with the critics. This is to be expected. Big name stars, relies more upon storytelling than violence or particularly gore, big budget (Seriously, this movie needed a 20 million dollar budget? I'm thinking someone's running around with 15 million bucks in a Swiss bank account), and a slowly building plot centering around character development that doesn't come to fruition until just the right moment(s). It received almost universally positive reviews and is considered by most to be the best Stephen King book to movie adaptation. It's good, but I don't think it can touch Pet Sematery, personally. Interestingly, Kathy Bates' character was loosely based on real life screwhead, Genene Jones. Jones was a nurse from Texas that liked to inject infants with Heparin and Digoxin so their hearts would go tits up. Allowing her to save the day and be showered with praise. Unfortunately, she missed the day in medical school where the professor discussed the differences between infants and adults an ended up killing the bulk of them. The first time she got caught with her paw in the cookie jar, they just asked her to voluntarily quit so she'd quit bringing down the hospital's average. Naturally, she did the same thing at the next hospital she worked for an that time was caught. It's unclear how many deaths she genuinely caused, speculation suggests as many as 50, though she was only convicted of one. Something else of interest that a lot of people probably wouldn't expect, is despite being convicted in the state of Texas, not only did she not get the death penalty (Cue the bleeding hearts interjecting with cries of "she's mentally incompetant", despite attaining a nursing degree), but she's up for parole in 2017. Allegedly, her motivation for these acts was to justify the need for an intensive care unit specifically for infants, but that defense didn't take an she's been in the crossbar hotel ever since. She's not a spot-on inspiration for the character of Annie Wilkes, though it's quite a bit closer than Texas Chainsaw Massacre or even Psycho came in identifying their villains with real life serial killer Ed Gein. So, you heard it here first. Texas is too soft on crime. Also relevant, Stephen King, many years after the book's release, acknowledged that the character of Annie Wilkes was a representation of his substance abuse problem, and the character of Paul Sheldon was intended to portray the trapped, subjugated man he'd become. Simultaneously loathing and needing it (her) to function. Duh, right?
The breakdown on this one is probably going to require more time spent on areas that many of the movies I'd normally review might neglect. And quite a bit less on areas where I'd normally need more extensive coverage, but it all fills up the space the same in the end don't it? What is obvious to anyone that hasn't even seen this is that the crux of the movie's effectiveness lies in the plot. And it's very detailed and very well executed. It has to be, because that's almost all there is. Despite being a bit slow for me in terms of pacing, at no point does the movie feel like it's dragging. I'm really not sure how that works, but while it's slow and methodical with an unfolding story, it manages not to bog down, even with a 108 minute run time. The character development is excellent, if a bit slow to unfold. I suppose from a realistic perspective it almost has to be slow, because James Caan's legs are pretty well annihilated. That kind of recovery doesn't happen overnight. So if nothing else, it's completely justified. But I don't have to like it. The acting is great. Kathy Bates, of course, is the linchpin. She doesn't do much that interests me, but she's great in this one. James Caan is famous, but doesn't much interest me, an I think Kathy Bates carried him to a certain degree in this one. But, not important.
They're both famous enough that they don't really need me to prove it, so as usual, here are the relevant co-stars, and the reasons for that designation: Richard Farnsworth (Highway to Hell, Mighty Joe Young 1949), Frances Sternhagen (Communion), Graham Jarvis (Parents, Prophecy), Archie Hahn (Gremlins 2), Gregory Snegoff (Had a role in Godzilla 1985 and did some English dubbing for the following: Cannibal Ferox, Cannibal Holocaust, Hell of the Living Dead, Zombie Holocaust), J.T. Walsh (Outbreak, Needful Things). Good acting, no weak links mucking it up. The shooting locations are great. Though I suspect shooting so much of the movie in California is where that 20 million dollar budget got eaten up. Then again, I suppose it's not my money, so what's it matter? The cabin is perfect, and it's critical that it be such, as it's where 90% of the movie takes place. The soundtrack is great, and the use of it perfect. Many instances where a musical track would hamper the shock value of the scene, they wisely used none. They do use plenty of music, but always at the right time. And of course, the iconic scene where Kathy Bates gets the sudden urge to work on her short game with James Caan's ankles. Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto #1 is nearly half of the reason the scene comes off as effectively as it does. It's perfectly disturbing. The special effects, while limited, are well done. Great car crash sequence near the beginning, but otherwise just some standard wounds and a shotgun blast. Greg Nicotero worked in the makeup department on this one an he's as pro as they come. So, while the movie generally has little need for a special effects crew, they did well with what they were asked to do. Overall, while not a personal favorite of mine, it's a favorite of many others. It gets proper respect from both the IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes (remember where you were this date an time), and I see no reason not to recommend it blind to the average viewer. Normal people are encouraged to add about 10% to my score to get an idea of how they're likely to feel about it.