Screen veteran Diane Ladd’s helming bow is a campily claustrophobic two-hander about lost love and misperceived intentions that wears out its welcome after a bouncy start.
Ladd, who also scripted [from Ella Leffland’s novel], toplines as the recently widowed title character, now ready for a new lodger. Rose Munck’s selection of her wheelchair-bound father-in-law – the richest man in town – is not as sensible as it seems. You see, her relatives don’t realize she had a lengthy affair with mean old Mr Leary (Ladd ex, Bruce Dern) when he was in his married 40s and she was a naive teen. They even had a baby.
Once he’s through her front door, the white gloves come off, and Munck indulges in a nonstop revenge fantasy, including knives, insults and open threats – all in a weird attempt to ‘heal’ the crippled geezer.
Maybe Misery loves company, but few viewers will be thrilled by this attempt to blend the macabre with slapstick violence and earnest psychological melodrama. Ultimately, the results play more like an episode of Love, American Style written by Harold Pinter and directed by Lina Wertmuller.
The pic is enlivened substantially by Dern’s stalwart performance, even if he never for a second looks 25 years older than Ladd.