Kathy Bates and James Caan star in MISERY, directed by Rob Reiner for Columbia Pictures.

Misery (1990, Rob Reiner)

So back in 1990, ignorant, bigoted book burning fundamentalist Christian psychopath women were screen villains on par with Norman Bates (by some accounts). Now they’re presidential candidates.

Misery actually owes quite a bit, in its third act, to Psycho. Reiner is no Hitchcock and he doesn’t try to be. His success, directing the film, has more to do with actors than with mood. William Goldman’s script does all the thriller stuff itself, which isn’t to say Reiner doesn’t do a fine job… he just isn’t the one responsible for it being so creepy.

See, for all the praise Kathy Bates gets… James Caan holds the movie together. She’s just playing the psycho–a far less sympathetic one than Norman Bates–whereas Caan is playing the victim. Sonny Corleone is scared of her, the audience will be too.

In fact, Caan’s got Misery‘s only sublime moment (and one of Reiner’s best as a director), sort of saving the film at the very end. Or at least making it something special.

Speaking of Psycho… I almost forgot the music. Marc Shaiman’s score owes quite a bit to Herrmann; it’s definitely the most obviously influenced feature.

Misery is pretty unique–remove the context and you’ve basically got Caan graphically beating some woman to death. With the Meathead directing.

Nice cameo from Lauren Bacall, but it’s all about Richard Farnsworth and Frances Sternhagen’s bickering, aged Nick and Nora. There was definite spin-off potential for those two.

Far more impressive than I was expecting.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Rob Reiner; screenplay by William Goldman, based on the novel by Stephen King; director of photography, Barry Sonnenfeld; edited by Robert Leighton; music by Marc Shaiman; production designer, Norman Garwood; produced by Reiner and Andrew Scheinman; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring James Caan (Paul Sheldon), Kathy Bates (Annie Wilkes), Richard Farnsworth (Buster), Frances Sternhagen (Virginia) and Lauren Bacall (Marcia Sindell).

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