Misery is a very obvious and very commercial gothic thriller, a functional adaptation of the Stephen King bestseller.
Basically a two-hander, Misery is the name of the 19th-century heroine of a series of gothic romances penned by James Caan. During the opening credits his car crashes on slippery Colorado roads and Kathy Bates digs him out of the snow and wreckage.
A plump former nurse, she fixes up his sevrely injured legs and virtually holds him prisoner, incommunicado, for the rest of the film. As in the classic Robert Aldrich gothics like What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, the fun comes from the ebb and flow nastiness of the two characters in a love/hate (often hate/hate) relationship.
Key plot gimmick is that Caan’s killed off the profitable but hack-work Misery character, an act that turns adoring fan Bates against him and sets in motion her obsession that he resurrect the fictional character.
Casting of Caan is effective, as his snide remarks and grumpy attitude are backed up by a physical dimension that makes believable his inevitable fighting back. Bates has a field day with her role, creating a quirky, memorable object of hate.
Tech credits on this $21 million pic are very good, including Reno-area location shots.
1990: Best Actress (Kathy Bates)