DOLORES CLAIBORNE and MISERY: A TERRIFYING DOUBLE BILL OF STEPHEN KING AND KATHY BATES HORROR COLLABORATIONS. REVIEWS BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©
DOLORES CLAIBORNE. (1995) BASED ON THE BOOK BY STEPHEN KING. DIRECTED BY TAYLOR HACKFORD. STARRING KATHY BATES, JENNIFER JASON LEIGH, DAVID STRATHAIRN, JUDY PARFITT, JOHN C. REILLY AND CHRISTOPHER PLUMMER. MUSIC BY DANNY ELFMAN FROM 'THE SIMPSONS.'
MISERY. (1990) BASED ON THE BOOK BY STEPHEN KING. DIRECTED BY ROB REINER. STARRING KATHY BATES, JAMES CAAN, LAUREN BACALL, RICHARD FARNSWORTH, FRANCES STERNHAGEN AND ROB REINER. MUSIC BY MARC SHAIMAN.
I was going to review these two brilliant Stephen King movie adaptations separately as there's more than enough material there for two reviews. In the end, though, I couldn't do it. I've always associated both these films with each other, if you know what I mean.
The two DVDs sit side-by-side in my movie collection. Whenever I watch one of the films, I usually follow it up with the other. And, of course, each film stars Kathy Bates, an excellent actress whom I greatly admire, and both films number among the better Stephen King book-to-screen adaptations. That's all the argument I need, folks. A nice fat juicy double review it is...!
Kathy Bates is superb in both films. I personally think that these are her two best movies, although I liked her in TITANIC too. DOLORES CLAIBORNE and MISERY, however, allow her to give full rein to her impressive acting ability and facial expressions. She's an infinitely watchable central character as the sinister events unfold quickly in both films and the viewer is left wondering just who, if anyone, will make it out alive or at least mentally intact...!
Dolores Claiborne (Bates) is an ordinary Maine housewife struggling to bring up her daughter Selena while simultaneously trying to keep both her exacting employer and her abusive alcoholic husband happy. Dolores is hard-working and decent and honorable and she deserves a good life. Circumstances conspire, however, to see that the opposite happens. Sigh. Don't they always...?
DOLORES CLAIBORNE is made brilliant by the uniformly excellent performances of the entire cast and not just Kathy Bates herself. Jennifer Jason Leigh is superb as the closed-off, edgy Selena who gobbles pills and swills down whiskey to block out the awful secret from her childhood. David Strathairn plays a blinder as the repulsive drunken wife-beater who turns his attention to his teenage daughter when relations between himself and his wife turn sour.
The other characters are top-notch too. Judy Parfitt is wonderful as both the top-of-her-game 'high-riding bitch' Vera Donovan and the poor bedridden stroke victim Vera Donovan for whom life is no longer worth living. The scene where a kindly Dolores distracts Vera with a musical china pig is heartbreaking and always makes me sniffle. But let's not forget Vera's wise words, folks:
'Sometimes, being a bitch is all a woman has to hold onto...!'
Christopher Plummer co-stars as the detective who won't rest until he puts the poor put-upon Dolores behind bars and comedy actor John C. Reilly does a great job as the local copper who, even though he's just doing his job, can't help having qualms about the whole brutal business of charging a downtrodden, middle-aged housewife with murder on remarkably patchy evidence.
You'd think, wouldn't you, that a famous novelist would be thrilled skinny to meet his 'Number One Fan...?' Not so in MISERY, the story of Paul Sheldon, a writer of romances, who does meet his 'Number One Fan,' an ex-nurse called Annie Wilkes, and ends up sincerely wishing he hadn't...
Have you ever seen the episode of THE SIMPSONS where the family goes to the dude ranch to
escape Homer's chart-topping Christmas hit about 'Stupid Flanders?' Moe the Bartender fortuitously (don't ask me how!) finds himself with TALKING HEADS singer David Byrne in his car and also in his power. When David Byrne responds in the negative to the question:
'Have you ever seen the movie MISERY...?' Moe responds with the following:
'Then this is aaaaaall gonna be new to ya...!'
Anyway, Paul Sheldon finds himself in Annie Wilkes's power when his car crashes during a blizzard and the capable and hefty Annie drags him to the safety of her nearby farm. She sets him up in the bed in her front room for the duration. He's got broken legs and all sorts of other injuries and there's precious little he can do about it when Annie makes it her sworn mission to, erm, nurse him back to health. Among other things...
It turns out that Paul is tired to death of writing about his romantic heroine, the titular MISERY Chastain, and in fact has killed her off in his last book, MISERY'S CHILD. Unfortunately for Paul, the lonely and friendless Annie just lives for the adventures of her favourite fictional character.
Well, let's face it, out there in the sticks with only her pet pig Misery (yes, Misery!) for company, what else is there to do? When Annie finds out what Paul has done to her beloved Misery (Misery the character in the book, not Misery the pig!), Paul finds himself fighting for his life. Or should that be 'writing' for his life, heh-heh-heh...? Yes, dear readers, it should indeed be 'writing' for his life, but I won't reveal any more than that...
It's probably not a spoiler to mention the 'hobbling' scene in which the demented Annie does something unspeakable to Paul's Ten Little Piggies with a sledgehammer. That scene is always making its way onto list shows which document THE 100 SCARIEST MOVIE MOMENTS and suchlike. You'll need a strong stomach to be able to watch it, though.
In fact, the whole film is hard to watch, with the claustrophobic build-up of horror and intensity as MISERY wends its way to its gruesome climax. The cuddly old sheriff Buster gets the full Milton Arbogast treatment towards the end of the film, which is only a spoiler if you're a fan of Alfred Hitchcock's horror classic PSYCHO, haha.
My favourite line in the film belongs to the sheriff. He tells Lauren Bacall, who's playing Paul Sheldon's agent, that they'll definitely start looking for the missing writer straightaway.
'He's in our system now,' he says as he sticks a yellow Post-It note to the desk in front of him. 'He's in our system now...???' Yeah, right. I know some utility companies and government agencies who seem to use that exact same system to keep track of their customers' accounts...!
Both these films are thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining, even if their subject matter is a little dark and hard to bear at times. You couldn't do better than watch 'em both back-to-back on a nice dark stormy night. And if you have any comments on this double review, don't hesitate to post 'em and I'll get back to you as soon as possible. Don't worry, folks, here's what I tell everyone:
'You're in the system...!'
AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.
Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, film blogger and movie reviewer. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, womens' fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra's books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:
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