Misery (1990)

Originally posted here in March 2015 on MovieRob, as part of Rob’s Meathead March blogathon.


As soon as Rob mentioned the idea of Meathead March, I knew which Rob Reiner movie I’d most like to write about. Heck, even Rob himself guessed! (MovieRob I mean….not Rob Reiner)

Anyway, of course I’m talking about Misery. A psychological thriller starring James Caan and Kathy Bates, based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King.

As this is a Stephen King story we can safely (and correctly) assume that the main character is going to be a writer. Caan plays Paul Sheldon, a reasonably famous author most renowned for his collection of romance novels, all starring the same protagonist Misery Chastain.

We see him at the start of the film having a car accident in the middle of nowhere and it is only by chance that he is rescued by retired nurse Annie Wilkes (Bates). She gets the unconscious Paul back to her modest home – instead of the obvious choice of a hospital – alarm bells – and sets him up in her spare room.

Though there is something undeniably creepy about Annie right from the start – she claims immediately to be Paul’s “Number 1 Fan” – things don’t begin too badly. Though Paul suspects she has mental health issues (oh if only you knew dirty birdy!!) it is only after she reads his newly published Misery Chastain novel and finds out he has killed her favourite character that she begins to show just how damn crazy and violent she can be. And with Paul confined to his bed and unable to walk or communicate with anyone except Annie he has no choice but to give into her demands of writing a new book.

What could possibly go wrong?

Misery is without doubt one of the finest Stephen King adaptations ever made. To be fair I’ve never read the book, but everyone loves it (even Mr King himself). It’s always had great reviews and critical acclaim. In fact it’s pretty hard to find anything wrong with it at all. I have heard of a few things that were left out of the book and some scenes that were slightly different, but that’s to be expected and Misery is still a sterling thriller from a great director, scriptwriter (William Goldman) and novelist.

It’s an interesting concept and one that plays on fears we all surely have. The idea of being trapped, confined by someone scary and unable to escape. Whilst kidnap/hostage movies have been done many times over, what gives Misery more of a unique twist is the circumstances and characters that the plot revolves around. This isn’t some nutcase (okay she IS a nutcase, but wait and see where I’m going with this) who wants to torture someone for fun or a psychopath who kidnaps soft young women ‘a la Silence of the Lambs’ style.

The performances from both Caan and Bates are outstanding. There aren’t a heap of other characters who keep popping up of course – save the sweet old sheriff, you’ll love him just like I did – but both the main actor and actress are enough to carry the whole shebang. Kathy Bates in particular gives the performance of her life. Who can think of the film Misery without straight away thinking of Kathy Bates? She manages to turn a middle aged, dumpy woman into one of the most frightening and tense character creations seen on screen during the 1990s (and there were a lot of good thrillers in the 90s).

Most of us have seen Misery but if you haven’t then I implore you to do so! It’s not a particularly dated movie, despite being made 25 years ago (god I feel old) and of course the premise and idea behind it stands the test of time anyway. It’s a classic story – tense and frightening. A film that builds up to very frightening and uneasy scenes and has a brilliant, climatic finale.

You might find you wince a bit too.

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About emmakwall

Films, books, soundtracks, good humour
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65 Responses to Misery (1990)

  1. I love Stephen King, and this is one of the best adaptions. Ironically, the only difference between the book and the movie was the iconic sledgehammer scene. In the book, it was actually more gruesome because it wasn’t a sledgehammer. It was an axe! Kathy Bates was incredible in this. I read the book before the movie was made, and Kathy Bates looked exactly how I pictured Annie Wilkes in my head. She was perfect. And James Caan is great in everything he does.

    • emmakwall says:

      Definitely one of the best adaptations 🙂 I’ve never read the book but I knew the ankle scene was different, I thought she cut his feet off rather than broke the bones. Nice lady!!

      Kathy Bates is incredible in it isn’t she!! Dirty Birdy!!!!! It’s the kind of movie you never get fed up of watching from time to time 🙂

  2. vinnieh says:

    Kathy Bates was at the top of her game here, such a creepy performance.

  3. imustseemovie.com says:

    Awesome movie

  4. Marta says:

    My ankles hurt just thinking about this film!
    Nice review Emma.

  5. Richard says:

    I have actually suffered a severe ankle ligament strain and a sprained ankle recently while playing football, (soccer to the Americans here) and after seeing this on my reader I will be having nightmares tonight!

    • emmakwall says:

      Oh no! I can seriously imagine the fear that you must have felt with a poorly ankle and seeing MISERY across your reader! Haha 🙂 I hope you feel better soon Richard, what’s the diagnosis, will it take a while to get better? And pah – soccer! What’s that? 😉

      • Richard says:

        It wasn’t too long ago that I read the book either. No exercise for 8-12 weeks 😞 though I went bowling with some friends and beat them all, standing on one leg haha!

        • emmakwall says:

          Haha! That made me laugh out loud! “and beat them all standing on one leg” you Richard, are a legend! 🙂 🙂

          8-12 weeks is a long time! But glad to hear you’re still on form hee hee.

  6. beetleypete says:

    I have read the book, and thought that this was a fine adaptation indeed. bates is superb, and even James Caan (who I don’t normally like) plays his part perfectly. I have time for some other King transfers to film too. ‘Christine’ was very like the book, and ‘Cujo’ was also well done.
    Nice review as always, Em. A succinct summation, with passion in the writing.
    As ever, Pete. xxx

    • emmakwall says:

      I’ve never read Misery and I wish I had! I don’t think I will now, not in the near future anyway, just because …. I’ve got too much else to read first lol.

      Your praise of my review REALLY made me smile Pete, it means a lot (coming from you!) it really does 🙂 thank you.

      I’ve never seen Christine or Cujo (or read the books!!). I’m aware of their stories. I like The Mist, 1408, Carrie, The Shining etc. The usual stuff really. My favourite Stephen King book (that I’ve read!) is The Dark Half. As ever back………xxx

  7. Fantastic review Emma! I think Misery is the best adaptation of a King novel to date!

  8. A Stephen King adaptation liked by the author himself? I thought it was impossible! Looks pretty good, I’ll throw it on the “check it out” pile.

  9. mikeladano says:

    So freaky. I may never watch again.

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