MISERY Add To My Top 10

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Release Date: November 30, 1990

Starring: James Caan, Kathy Bates, Frances Sternhagen, Richard Farnsworth, & Lauren Bacall

Genre: Suspense/Drama

Audience:

Rating: Not rated when screened
(probably PG-13 or R)

Runtime: Approximately 100 minutes

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Content:

Blasphemy, kidnapping, lying, torture and torment; murder, brief (but bloody) violence, and 6 obscenities

Summary:


Review:

"I'm your number one fan!" exclaims Annie Wilkes, as she pulls best-selling author Paul Sheldon from a freezing car wreck during a blizzard in upstate New York. Annie, who is also a nurse, takes the famous writer of "misery novels" home with her, where she nurses him back to health. Bed-confined because of his maimed legs, Sheldon slowly comes to realize that Annie is a psychotic fan who plans to hold him captive.

Back in town, the sheriff is alerted to Sheldon's disappearance by the novelist's literary agent. When a search turns up his empty snow-covered, overturned car, Sheldon is presumed dead, but the sheriff continues the investigation on his own. Annie, in the meanwhile, reads Sheldon's latest manuscript and goes berserk upon learning of the death of Misery, the novel's main character. "Misery made me so happy," she laments, in a humorous bit of irony.

Annie coerces Sheldon into burning the manuscript, then informs the author that because "God wants the world to be free from such filth," He has brought Sheldon to her so that she can edit him. Annie orders him to write a new novel to her liking. Sheldon begins typing, with Annie threatening and torturing him before finally brandishing a gun. As the days pass, Sheldon convalesces, only to have Annie break his ankles with a sledgehammer so that she can continue to keep him there, locked in his room writing for her.

In another bit of humor, the old-time sheriff has been reading Sheldon's books, too. When he comes across an old newspaper article that indicted Annie for some hospital infant deaths, he notices her statement is identical to one in Sheldon's novels. Clued in, he comes calling, but meets his demise.

Annie now plans to kill Sheldon, and then herself. Sheldon, however, entices her into letting them live long enough so he can type the manuscript's ending, which, like the last page of a novel that you just can't put down, ties itself to the chess match being played out between the two.

According to director Rob Reiner, the physical prison in which romance novelist Paul Sheldon finds himself is a symbol for a creative trap -- his talent is held hostage by his success. It is a situation that Reiner, formerly a sitcom star, understands. "If you're a creative person," Reiner says, "your work is your life. If you aren't surviving creatively, you're dying. So Paul's fight for survival is a metaphor for what you have to go through to create."

Is Reiner saying, then, that you have to go through hell to create? Where did that kind of a notion come from? Certainly not the Bible. On the other hand, the film certainly proves the worldly adage (albeit tongue in cheek) that "misery loves company."

Which, premise-wise, may be MISERY's only bright spot. True to its genre, the film contains much spine-tingling, muscle-tightening, stomach-churning suspense. Christians, however, may want to consider the violence, torture, murder and gore, before making a decision about whether, or not they would want to subject themselves to all this.

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