Cinerama: Misery

Posted: September 11, 2009 in Cinerama

Misery

By Mike Derderian

A week passed and I still find myself uninspired. You’re thinking, “Writer’s block!” No, that’s not the case, dear Fay. I see faces of people I’ve met in the streets, aboard yellow sluggish buses, narrow stairwells and within the open spaces of my dreams. Why do they haunt me? I’m done with articles about them and I no longer can remember their names—but still their faces I can see clearly.

So I ask you: Why would people trust a perfect stranger, who approaches their thresholds in search of a story? I feel like a gumshoe, a private eye snooping around for next week’s article to fill in the space.

It was a dark and stormy night. I was walking the streets of Philadelphia looking for a case to solve. The air carried dust and the scent of cheap cologne—I think it was my aftershave. I forgot to introduce myself; my name is Mike Spywell and I am a public eye. It was the night I first got involved in the White Dove murders.

Every now and then a white dove would turn out dead at the city morgue. Cause of death: A severe hit to the cranium that led to internal hemorrhaging hence slow painful death. Agony! But what interested me most was the fact that the killer always left a red apple next to the victim’s marble-cold carcass—a poor little white dove that probably had great expectations of life, marriage and peace.

They say Crime and Punishment…huh! I mock the phrase for no one was ever caught—why? Well, the murders baffled our potbelly policemen, who failed to see the true answer to the gruesome serial murders, staring them in the face. But I, Mike Spywell, figured it out when I remembered a stanza by the English poet Alexander Pope, “Nature and Nature’s laws lay hid in night; God said, ‘Let Newton be!’ and all was light.” Well, if you ask me, the only light the poor doves saw before the end was the one going off for it seems that they all were killed by Sir Isaac Newton’s law of gravity.

When it comes to birds IQ, crows and jays are topnotch; falcons come second; and hawks, herons and woodpeckers rank also quite high. But there is no mention of doves, which each day prove that they know nothing about physics. Any one with wits should know that when sitting under a tree with an apple ominously hanging above his head he’s bound to get hurt or even killed. Newton was lucky that he wasn’t a miserable dove… I mean imagine if the apple killed good old Issac, we wouldn’t have had a gravity law and, more importantly, we’d all be floating in mid-air in utter misery, simply because we don’t have wings.

Misery comes in all forms but for Paul Sheldon, who is a celebrated writer, misery was a woman called Annie Wilkes.

Over the years, a famous writer establishes a wide fan base, especially if his writings are good, entertaining and thought provocative. But it seems that Sheldon’s book Misery attracted the wrong sort, just like Wilkes, who in simple words was the fan from hell. She loved him so much that she decided to break his ankles using a sledgehammer to prevent him from escaping.

If you think the above is a true story, don’t. It’s part of the 1990 film Misery starring James Caan, Richard Farnsworth, Lauren Bacall and Kathy Bates, who won an Oscar for best actress in a leading role in 1991. A strange philosophy, but true; Hollywood appreciates actors portraying psychos, monsters and sexually frustrated voyeurs. So with the exception of Richard Attenborough’s Ghandi I can never imagine an Oscar going to an actress donned in a white sari pretending to be Mother Theresa—not in our time anyway. Based on a Stephen King’s novel, Misery, bleakness doesn’t equal the horror found in Psycho, Seven, Silence of the Lambs or Driftwood, but it’s still regarded very disturbing. Will it make you scream? It will, and in every sense of the word, especially when you watch the painful ankle breaking ritual—a scene probably rated the most painful in film history.

It was probably one of Caan’s best performances, but it was Bates that got the Oscar for her brilliant portrayal of the mentally disturbed ex-nurse, who lives in a secluded farm. More disturbingly Wilkes has a pig she likes to call Misery. Talk about a dedicated fan.

How did they meet? Well, Sheldon suffered a car crash as he was leaving a peaceful town he was visiting, but unfortunately Wilkes was the one who saved him. Imagine the joy of saving your idol! However, believing that finders are keepers, she decided to keep Sheldon for herself, and maybe force him to write a sequel to Misery.
Veteran actors Richard Farnsworth and Lauren Bacall rounded the main cast: The former played the role of a sheriff, whereas the later was Sheldon’s publisher.

What makes Misery a good film is the way Rob Reiner played on King’s angle: is Placing Sheldon in an impossible situation, yet providing his character with the inner strength and hope that eventually he’ll find a way out of Wilkes’ “loving” clutches.

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