Writer Paul Sheldon (James Caan – from television’s Las Vegas) has just finished his latest novel, which he completed in a remote cabin in the woods. Wanting to deliver his novel, in which he kills off the main character, Misery Chastaine, to his publisher (Lauren Bacall – How to Marry a Millionaire, The Mirror Has Two Faces) as quickly as possible, Sheldon drives in a blinding snowstorm. Due to the slickness of the roads and the blinding snow Sheldon crashes off the road. He is dug out by Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates – Failure to Launch, About Schmidt) and brought to her house. Sheldon is severely injured, but being a nurse Annie is able to take care of him.
His good luck turns to bad when it becomes apparent that Annie is a crazed fan and is not willing to let her favourite author slip out of her hands. After she reads Sheldon’s manuscript and realizes that he has killed off Misery Annie loses all touch with reality. She insists that Sheldon stays there and writes another novel bringing Misery back to life. It becomes a game of cat-and-mouse between the two with Sheldon trying to figure out a way to get away from Annie despite his injuries.
This is probably the best adaptation of a Stephen King novel to film. Director Rob Reiner (This Is Spinal Tap, The Story of Us) keeps the tension and cat and mouse game between the two main characters amped up throughout the film. He never lets things get too over the top, but just keeps it simply scary. You will find yourself alternating between nervous laughter and edge-of-your-seat throughout the whole film. This juxtaposition works well in that the violence of this horror/thriller is not what the focus is on. A lesson that many recent horror directors should learn.
While some of the credit for the film’s success rest with Reiner the bulk of it is due to the great acting. It is truly a character and by extension an actor driven film in which all lays on the shoulders of the Kathy Bates and James Caan. Bates inhabits the crazy obsessed fan character she plays and was rewarded with an Oscar Award for the role. Due to this it is a film that you can watch multiple times and not be bored of.