Movie Review: Misery (1990)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the 1990 thriller starring Kathy Bates and James Caan.

Synopsis: After becoming rich and famous writing a series of romance novels about the fictional Misery Chastain, author Paul Sheldon decides to kill off his popular character and move on to a new project. However, after completing his non-Misery novel, he accidentally drives off a snow-covered road and is rescued by nurse Annie Wilkes, who turns out to be a mentally unstable and obsessed fan.
When Wilkes learns of Misery's fate, she turns violent and forces the still-injured Sheldon to write a new Misery novel while holding him hostage in her remote home.


I had today off from work and, since my wife has to work tonight, I asked her to stay up with me last night so we could watch a movie together. I've seen the film "Misery" on several different occasions but it had been a while since I last watched it so, when I saw it was on one of our movie channels, that ended up being the film I picked. And, as was the case previously, it was a great choice.

A big part of the reason this film is as entertaining as it is would be Annie Wilkes (Bates). She is such an intriguing character because, even though she's nuttier than banana nut bread, she's also deceptively cunning. Every time it seemed like Sheldon (Caan) was gaining the upper hand, she would find a way to put him back in his place and make his situation seem even more hopeless, whether it was spilling the glass of wine he laced with drugs or using a sledge hammer to make sure he couldn't walk out on her.

Caan, for his part, did a decent job in his role of antagonist/victim. Despite everything working against him, including not being able to use his legs and one of his arms, he still kept fighting back and trying to escape. I also liked the way he would manage to manipulate Wilkes by using her Misery obsession to his benefit.

Of course, the most under appreciated character in this movie is the sheriff, Buster (Farnsworth). Much like Wilkes, he wasn't quite what he seemed. When he's first introduced, he just seems like a small-town sheriff with very little going for him. But, as the film progresses, he shows off some surprisingly solid detective work and proves to be a great nemesis for Wilkes despite the latter leaving very few clues pointing to her. His involvement definitely made the film better because, in addition to being a solid thriller, it was also a halfway decent crime drama.


An author recovers from an accident, nursed by a twisted fan. Directed by Rob Reiner. From the Stephen King novel. Best actress Oscar for Bates.

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Final Opinion

If you have a weak stomach, you might want to close your eyes when Wilkes starts carrying her sledge hammer. But, if you haven't seen this film, it's worth taking the time to watch it at least once. Who knows, you might even become obsessed with it.

My Grade: A

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Updated: 11/17/2016, StevenHelmer
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