When bestselling Gothic romance author Paul Sheldon (James Caan) veers off the road in the snowy Colorado woods, he’s rescued and tended to by super-fan (and former nurse) Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates). Annie isn’t happy that Sheldon has killed off his heroine Misery Chastaine. Recovering and snowed in, Paul patronizes her. He’s just a writer making a buck. Annie is not placated.
Rob Reiner runs Stephen King’s nightmare story (extrapolated from the perils of fame, his own) about hero-worship, claustrophobia and madness like a stage play, giving cranky Caan and sweet-‘n’-chunky Bates the room necessary to work up mutual disdain. Still crippled by his injuries, Sheldon is a bystander to Annie’s ascending madness. And Annie is convinced of sadism’s curative powers. Watching Bates “hobble” her beloved is viscerally intimate and disconcerting . It’s Grand Guignol Gothed-out and weaponized. Bates won the 1990 best actress Oscar.