Monday, August 27, 2007:

Misery (1990)

Misery (1990)
Misery, dir: Rob Reiner
A few thoughts knocking around the old noggin:

I liked this shot even though it doesn't show many stairs or show the set design (if it was a set; I'm assuming so).

Annie in the book had hairs across the pages of her photo album so that when they were snapped she was certain Paul had looked through it. She'd also seen the smudges on the door to his room from where he forced the wheelchair through. In the movie the only door too narrow was the one to the kitchen. Not a big deal but I can't help noticing differences like that and wondering if they're in service fo the story.

One that I think wasn't was the ending: in the book it was a cruel irony that Paul wrote his best book in captivity and at Annie's insistence. It was a further irony that he still hated the character, but that he recognized the quality of his work and that he couldn't bring himself to destroy the book. So he destroys a sheaf of paper with just a few typewritten pages on top, and sends the new Misery book off to his agent.

Caan's acting in this film is consistently unconvincing: overly broad except where it's flat, but almost never on the money.

Bates' acting, in spite of her Oscar, is also unconvincing: Hollywood realist, but still affected in places where it's not meant to be.

I'm not sure if I do or don't like the attention given to the policeman. I like the character but I wonder if it serves the story at all: I could imagine an intensely claustrophobic movie where the entire focus is on Paul and Annie, no other characters are introduced except perhaps offscreen, and no flashbacks are given at all--no information about the past except through dialogue and through Annie's photo album. In other words, not like this movie and not like the book, but sort of a two-person act-off: Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier in Sleuth. It would need a better actor than James Caan.

I don't like Rob Reiner's direction. It's not just the cheesy and predictable "not really dead" shock; it's also the general lack of subtlety, the lack of faith in the audience's intelligence. I would love to see this film as it would have been directed by an austere director like Ingmar Bergman.
Oh, and of course the hobbling scene was different and the thumb cake and the lawnmower scene. I guess that's all because of Rob Reiner's aesthetics? It's already an R film ... or maybe he just wanted as many butts in seats as possible so he held off on the gore. Really takes some of the bite out of it, though. Horror is supposed to transgress, shock, rattle.
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