Misery (1990)

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Food: It is a bit more upscale, but nice if you are going for a one fancy cocktail happy hour (cocktails are pricy) with some appetizers. The spot is Parole + Saxon and it sits on the corner of Bowery and Bleecker. My friend ordered, first, the Japanese whiskey cocktail per the servers suggestion, but not a whiskey drinker herself, she felt she could still taste too much of it in there and opted out. I tasted it, and I thought it reminded me of a cold sake mixed with soda water. She changed her order to a cosmopolitan instead, and enjoyed that much better. I ventured to try the pear + vetiver cocktail, made with el Gobernador Pisco, pear eau de vie, vetiver, and green peppercorn, which I thought was really tasty, and simple. To snack, I ordered the truffle burrata made with honey and grilled sourdough, which was delicious, but almost too much for what I was in the mood to eat. They brought out rolls with butter, and honestly, that was my favorite part.

Film: “Misery” (1990) is based off an 1987 Stephen King novel of the same name, and directed by Rob Reiner (“When Harry Met Sally” 1989 & “The Princess Bride” 1987). This story is perfect material for an adaptation because, unlike some of King’s novels, it is grounded in simplistic realities that are innately haunting, and doesn’t cross over into supernatural elements.

James Caan (“Elf” 2003; “The Godfather” series) plays Paul Sheldon, a famous novelist, known for a series of Victorian romance novels about the love life of a woman named Misery Chastain. For some time, he has been working to come up with material for another book after he killed off his beloved lead, and decided to try something new. After leaving a conversation with his publicist, he embarks on his ritualistic drive from Silver Springs, Colorado to return home to New York City. While on the blizzarding drive, his car goes off road and crashes deep into a snowbank. This is when he is saved by a country woman and former nurse named Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) who shovels him out of his car and drags him back to her home.

Sheldon wakes up in a cottage, tucked in bed with two broken legs, a dislocated shoulder, and a view of the vast remote countryside. He is greeted by an enthusiastic Annie, who raves about his novels and claims to be his “number one fan.” Full of relief and confusion, Sheldon attempts to understand the situation and grateful for her help, concedes to letting Annie read his unfinished manuscript for his next book. She rides into town to grab his new novel, the final chapter of the Misery series, and when she returns, she mentions that she called authorities on his behalf, but that her home phones are still not working.

Suddenly, in the middle of the night, Annie finishes reading the final chapter of the Misery series, and flies into a blind rage over the death of her favorite character. In a chilling monologue, she threatens him and shares that no one knows where he is and that he will never leave. It is then that the film turns from feeling quietly uneasy to being a chill down your spine.

The crux of this film relies so much on the ability for a storyline like this to build in the viewers imagination. Like a Hitchcock film, “Misery” masterfully builds its suspense by focusing on what we don’t see rather than what we do. We are stuck with Sheldon, waiting to see what Annie will do next, watching to find any cracks in her game, all while feeling somewhat helpless and doomed.

Kathy Bates won a well-deserved Oscar for her performance in this film. She is absolutely phenomenal as an unflinching, maniacal, and unassailable Annie. Meandering back and forth between being a lovelorn backwoods spinster and a savage, unshackled monster. It is fascinating to watch and her delivery of this role absolutely carries the film. “Misery” is an uncomplicated, well-executed piece of horror in cinema and needs to be seen.

 

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