Release Date: November 30, 1990
Director: Rob Reiner
Starring: James Caan, Kathy Bates.
Tag Lines: “This Christmas there will be…Misery.”
“The Tide Has Come.”
“Paul Sheldon used to write for a living. Now, he’s writing to stay alive.”
Relevance: As mentioned before on this blog (see 256. The Green Mile), I am a huge fan of Stephen King. I have been reading his books since the 1980’s and continue to do so today. But I’ll take a guess that I am not his number one fan. I would say that honor goes to Kathy Bates. If it weren’t for his marvelous creation of Annie Wilkes, Ms. Bates would not have a Best Actress Oscar in her possession, a very well deserved Best Actress Oscar.
I read the novel “Misery” sometime between 1988 and 1989 when it was released in paperback form. It was a fantastic read and easily became my favorite King book at that time. The character of Annie Wilkes was one of his best. She was terrifying, bizarre and devious all wrapped up into one mentally ill sociopath, the perfect villain in a truly chilling tale. The movie, directed by Rob Reiner, received excellent reviews and became a box office hit. Unfortunately, due to my being away at college, I was not able to see the film when it was released in theaters. My viewing did not come until months later when it was released as a VHS rental.
After Ms. Bates won the Oscar for the role, my need to see the film intensified. It was grabbed off the shelf almost immediately from Blockbuster sometime in the summer of 1991. I couldn’t wait to see it and thankfully I was not disappointed one bit. The movie completely captured the essence of the novel and Annie Wilkes, as portrayed by Ms. Bates, was everything I could have hoped for and more. The character was one like we had never seen before and the performance matched it to perfection. She was simply fantastic in the movie. The first time I watched it, I was alone, but I loved it so much I couldn’t wait to watch it again and share it with friends and family.
In my college years, summers were spent mostly working and hanging with friends doing numerous activities. A lot of those activities happened at my parent’s house on good old 15th Avenue. As much as I would have loved to be somewhere else, my friends loved my parents and loved hanging out there, so we did. My parents really liked that particular group of friends and often joined in the festivities, my mom with her brandy and my dad with his goofy songs. They fit in quite well. Many a nights were spent laughing over games, movies and snacks. Lots and lots of snacks. One of those nights in the summer of 1991, we watched ‘Misery.’
I can’t remember exactly how many of my friends were there, but I know of one in particular that was present. I shall call him John, because that’s his name. John absolutely despised horror movies, but I was one of those friends that coaxed people on. “You have to watch it.” “It’ll be fine.” “It’s not that scary.” “I’ll tell you when to look away.” I am sure much to his chagrin, we watched it. I have to say that second time through, the movie was less entertaining only because watching John watch the movie was much more enjoyable. He paced, covered his eyes with his hands and yelled at the screen numerous times. He was a basket of nerves the entire two hours. At one point he screamed so loud, my mom, who hated horror movies just as much as John and was not watching the movie, came out of the kitchen to see what the hell was happening. ‘Misery’ movie night was a success.
I have watched ‘Misery’ many times of the years and it still entertains me and always makes me smile, thinking about John and those first two times I watched it. The movie also gets referenced daily in my household. I call my husband Annie Wilkes, as he is the type of person who while watching TV or a movie will start talking directly at it, yelling how something didn’t make sense. It reminds me every time of this scene and quote:
“And all the kids cheered! But I didn’t cheer. I stood right up and started shouting. This isn’t what happened last week! Have you all got amnesia? They just cheated us! This isn’t fair! HE DID’NT GET OUT OF THE COCK – A – DOODIE CAR!”
I just say, “Calm down, Annie.” He usually does and we continue watching. In related news, we do not own a sledgehammer nor will I allow him to buy one. Those who have seen the movie know the reason why.
Today’s Thoughts: “Oh forgive me Paul for prattling away and making everything all oogy.”
Before watching ‘Misery’ today I texted my friend John. It went something like this:
“Today’s movie of the day is your favorite of all time. (Blowing kiss emoji and heart emoji.)
(Gif of Annie Wilkes holding a sledge hammer)
“Nooooooo!!!! Annie (nervous emoji)
Apparently John still remembers the first time he met Annie Wilkes in ‘Misery’ and I am still one of those friends. I haven’t watched it in its entirety in about five years, so I was very excited. Unfortunately (or fortunately) my husband (Annie #2) was not around today so I watched it alone.
Rob Reiner has directed some really memorable films. This is his second of five to appear on my list of most influential movies of all time ( see 251. The American President for the first). He really created a creepy, suspenseful film that definitely has stood the test of time. It’s almost Hitchcockian with superb acting from both Kathy Bates and James Caan. Mr. Caan is brilliant but is obviously overshadowed by the crazy Annie Wilkes. There really is no other character like her and Ms. Bates plays her well balanced between over the top and terrifying. She doesn’t miss a beat in any scene. It is quite the performance.
Watching ‘Misery’ today made me want to re-read the novel. I might just do so, although there are still a few Stephen King books I have yet to tackle. Regardless, I am definitely in a “King” mood. Thankfully there are still four more of his movies that I will be watching this year as part of this blog. Maybe I really am his number one fan.
Awards: Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, Kathy Bates (winner), Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama, Kathy Bates (winner), New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress, Kathy Bates (nomination).
Ways to Watch: YouTube, Google Play, Amazon Prime, Vudu, iTunes, Hulu, DVD Availability.