Misery an indepth Analysis of the 1990 classic
April 24, 2020
Given the current stay at home situation, I figured this would be a good movie to re-watch. I did notice a lot of nuances that I didn't catch the first time. I gained a whole new perspective and appreciation for the film.
Here's the premise; A famous author is rescued from a car crash by a fan. Not just any fan, his number one fan. On the surface, this seems like the best possible outcome. But as the story progresses you slowly realize, things are not what they seem.
The film opens with Paul Sheldon, a best-selling novelist finishing up a manuscript for his latest novel. Not just any novel, the final chapter in his Victorian-era romance series centered around protagonist, Misery. We get some subtle hints from Paul that he's not happy writing the Misery novels. He wants to do something different but he's afraid that he might end up writing more fiction for his fans. Paul with his manuscript drives from Silver Creek, Colorado to his home in New York City. Unfortunately, he's caught in a blizzard and his car goes off the road. Fortunately for Paul, (or so we think) Annie Wilkes finds him and brings him to her remote home.
At first glance, Annie Wilkes seems perfectly normal. She explains that she's a nurse and that the roads are close because of the blizzard. Paul has compound fractures on both his legs. Annie tries her best to take care of him. Annie claims that she's his number one fan and expresses how much she loves the lead character Misery. Paul wants to get in touch with his publicist to let her and his family know that he's okay. Annie explains that the phone lines are down because of the blizzard.
Now, Paul makes a crucial decision that will change his relationship with Annie. Out of gratitude, he hands her the manuscript and wants her to be the first person to read it. In the next few scenes, Annie's behavior changes as she slowly reads through the manuscript. In one particular scene, she goes into a fit of rage arguing with Paul about the use of profanities. Paul tries to explain, that's how people talked in that ear but Annie doesn't want to hear it. Things take a turn for the worst when Annie finishes the manuscript. Paul had symbolically ended his relationship with the novels and Misery by ending her life. In the middle of the night, Paul wakes up to Annie staring at him. She explodes in anger and walks out.
Paul now realizes that he has to get out of there as soon as possible. This happens in the first 20 minutes of the film and is such a great transition from savior to captor.
The next day, Annie reveals her dreadful plan to keep Paul locked in her house and forcing him to re-write the manuscript. There's this powerful scene where she forces Paul to burn the only copy of his manuscript. In her mind, Misery's life was more important than the man who created her. And I love how the film maintains suspense without making it cliché. For example, there's a scene where Paul manages to grab a strip of pain pills. And plans to drug Annie. As soon as you see him grabbing those pills, your mind immediately paints a picture of Paul escaping the house by drugging Annie. He slowly manipulates Annie to having dinner together and drugs her wine. At this point, you want her to drink the wine. And suddenly, she knocks the glass down. I loved how the filmmakers lead you in one direction visually but then completely catch you off guard.
The scenes where you see Paul in a wheelchair forced to type page after page. It's very symbolic of how he felt about writing his Misery novels, a series that was aimed to please fans. Makes you wonder, is this how Stephen King felt?
Another thing I liked is the portrayal of the Sheriff. They gave him peculiar habits but they stayed away from the bumbling small-town law enforcement trope.
He did his job diligently and he did it well. From finding Paul's car in the snow to reading his novels to get some insight. The Sheriff writes down a quote from one of Paul's novels "There is a higher justice than that of man, I will be judged by Him.". Clearly, he remembers the quote but doesn't recall where he has seen it before. And his memory is jogged when he notices Annie in town. The quote is from a newspaper article and that article leads him straight to Annie Wilkes.
The Sheriff's encounter with Annie is probably my favorite scene. The way the filmmakers dragged that suspenseful interaction is brilliant. Surprised by the Sheriff's visit, Annie quickly drugs Paul and hides him in her basement. Annie explains away the typewriter by saying she's writing a novel to keep the memory of Paul alive.
It makes you wonder, was this her plan all along?
Did she have any intention of letting Paul go alive?
Maybe she used the death of Misery to justify her actions rather than causing her actions.
Defying all odds, Paul manages to escape. I liked how the story came full circle by ending the film with Paul writing a novel for himself. It makes you wonder, how crucial was Annie in helping Paul break out of his so-called mediocrity. In the closing scene, Paul says "..I still think about her once in a while." Not in a scared way but almost like he's thanking her, a powerful metaphor between escaping from Annie and Misery.