The gore is toned down and the psychology played up in this darkly humorous adaptation of Stephen King's novel. Paul Sheldon (Caan) is a successful author of romantic fiction, but public demand for his heroine Misery Chastain has stifled his creativity; so after killing her off in a forthcoming final adventure, he writes a long-neglected personal novel. When a blizzard sends his car off the road on the drive home from his mountain retreat, his life is saved by nurse Annie Wilkes (Bates), who soon has the invalid tucked up in her home. It's a bonus that as his number one fan she's extremely attentive; and a definite minus that she's a psychopath who's looking forward to his next 'Misery' novel... William Goldman's intelligent script operates both as psycho-thriller and as sly comment on the sort of attitude towards celebrity which can enshrine and - in this case, literally - imprison the object of devotion. The casting is inspired: Caan oozes frustration at his physical disability, while Bates brings authority and an eerie naturalness to her demented character, her homespun expressions ('oogie', 'dirty birdy') providing a bizarre counterpoint to her increasingly cruel actions. Reiner captures just the right level of physical tension, but for the most part wisely emphasises the mental duels. Terrific.
Cast and crew