Misery Blu-ray Review
Release Date: September 15, 2009
Run time: 107 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD MA lossless 5.1 mix
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Disc Spec: 1 BD50/1 DVD
Based on the chilling bestseller by Stephen King, Misery was brought to the screen by director Rob Reiner as one of the most effective thrillers of the 1990s. From a brilliant adaptation by screenwriter William Goldman, Reiner turned King’s cautionary tale of fame and idolatry into a mainstream masterpiece of escalating suspense, translating King’s own experience with obsessive fans into a frightening tale of entrapment and psychotic behavior. Kathy Bates deservedly won an Academy Award for her performance as Annie Wilkes, an unbalanced devotee of romance novels written by Paul Sheldon (James Caan), whose books provide Annie with a much-needed escape from her pathetic life and her secret, violent past. After Annie rescues the injured Sheldon from a car accident, she seizes the opportunity to nurse her favorite writer back to health, but her tender loving care soon turns to terrorism as she demands that Sheldon write his latest novel according to her wish-fulfillment fantasies. From this point forward, Misery percolates to a boil as equal parts mystery, thriller, and cleverly dark comedy, with the helpless author pitched in deadly warfare against his number one fan. While Bates carefully modulates her role from doting kindness to sympathetic loneliness and finally to horrifying ferocity, Caan is equally superb as the celebrated author who must literally write for his life. It’s essentially a two-actor film, but Richard Farnsworth and Lauren Bacall are excellent in supporting roles as they investigate the writer’s mysterious disappearance. Frightening, funny, and totally irresistible, Misery was such a hit that some of Bates’s dialogue entered the popular lexicon (particularly her nagging reference to Caan as “Mister Man”), and its nail-biting thrills remain timelessly intense.
‘Misery’ has got to be one of the most effective psychological thrillers to date. This is thanks in large part to the dynamic Oscar winning (and deserving) performance by the legendary Kathy Bates. In fact, this performance is so dynamic, so convincing that when I first saw this film I was scared sleepless for months it felt (I was merely ten when I saw this movie the first time). It had such an impact on me that it wasn’t until about a year ago that I even considered watching this movie again, and I am so glad that I did. Now that I am older I can appreciate this film much more, and while it still manages to deliver chills to my spine I’m not hiding my face in the pillow either. Since I’ve allowed the film back into my life I’ve already watched it a handful of times and it never ceases to amaze me.
The film follows author Paul Sheldon as he finishes yet another novel, this time a departure from his successful `Misery’ series. As he sets off for home (tradition causes him to leave town in order to finish each novel) he’s caught in the middle of a snow storm and suffers a terrible wreck. Worse than the wreck though is what’s waiting for him when he opens his eyes. Annie Wilkes is a nurse who finds Paul on the side of the road and vouches to nurse him back to health. Annie just so happens to be Paul’s biggest fan, eccentric as she is, and so he offers to let her read his novel before anyone else has the opportunity. This was a grave mistake for Annie is very dissatisfied with his work and holds him hostage forcing him to rewrite it to her satisfaction. What ensues is a mental game of cat and mouse that is so brilliantly crafted it will have the audience at the edge of their seats.
The acting is just brilliant here, Kathy Bates living up to all the hype surrounding her performance. Annie Wilkes truly is one of the best, if not the best female villain created for the big screen and Kathy Bates’ delivery is iconic. Not to be left out of the equation though is James Caan who meets her every step of the way with a very convincing performance all his own. Paul Sheldon is the perfect compliment to Annie Wilkes and it’s a shame that Caan’s portrayal didn’t receive the Oscar nomination it deserved. This is really Bates’ movie though, but it’s her chemistry with Caan that helps elevate her performance to superiority. The supporting players are also great, especially that of Richard Farnsworth. Rob Reiner also deserves some praise for his superb direction here. He’s not a director I’m generally blown away by but here he soars. He takes Goldman’s screenplay (of course adapted from King’s masterful novel) and takes off with it..
Movie Quality: 10/10
The print is presented in 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 with a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. Color me impressed with the print quality of ‘Misery’ considering that the film is 19 years old. Colors are bright with a nice pop to them. The picture looks almost pristine from beginning to end, that you can tell MGM took the time to really make this release top notch. If I found one issue with the print, it was during the beginning of the film during the snow storm takes a hit as the image is a little hazy. Skin tones had excellent color with some impressive details. Details are excellent throughout the entire presentation. Upclose scenes with James Caan and Kathy Bates are impressive.
Video Quality: 9/10
The audio is presented in DTS-HD MA lossless 5.1 mix. This is a dialogue driven film, so this is a front heavy experience. The dialogue was clear and crisp with no apparent issues. The mix is well balanced with the low usage of the surrounds. The rears do get some use with the score, but do not offer the excellent depth. I would say that this mix was sufficient enough for this type of film.
Audio Quality: 8/10
- DVD Copy of the film
There are no extras on the Blu-ray, but the included DVD has all the special features. While this is not a bad thing, it would have been nice to have the special features on the Blu-ray disc.
Special Features: 5/10
‘Misery’ is one of those rare gems that gets better with time and will never go out of style. I highly recommend this masterpiece to anyone looking for a good thrill, some good performances and overall one heck of a great movie. If you own the DVD upgrading is a no brainer.
Overall Rating: 9/10