FUTUM COMMUNICATIONS, INC. Data Processing Typesetting Printing Mailing 512-389-1500 FAX 512-389-0867 3019 Alvin DeVane, Suite 500 Austin, Texas 78741 less open range for Costner. Like John Ford’s The Searchers, and such acknowledged progeny as The Deer Hunter, Apocalypse Now, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Dances with Wolves is the story of a man who chooses to “go native,” who accepts and embraces the otherness of the Other. If only in its recognition that he has arrived too late to enrich the genre, Costner has produced a Western with classic resonances of paradise lost. I’ M YOUR NUMBER-ONE FAN,” says the first voice Paul Sheldon hears as he regains consciousness two days after losing control of his car in a Colorado blizzard. We peer up with him into the beaming face of Annie Wilkes, a registered nurse who happened to be driving nearby and rescued Paul from the wintry wreckage. All his liinbs broken, he lies bandaged in a bed in Annie’s house because, she tells him, the roads to the NSP RAT ONA , .C.6111 TIXASserver “The Texas Observer, the bible of Lone Star populism….” The Washington Post May 1989 Name Address City State Zip $27 enclosed for a one-year subscription. Bill me for $27. 307 West 7th, AUSTIN, TX 78701 hospital are blocked by snow. Annie, who lives alone with her pet pig Misery, is thrilled to have as involuntary house guest her favorite author, the creator of nine best-selling romantic novels about a 19th-century heroine named Misery Chastain. Annie has read and memorized eight of them, as well as every snippet about the life of her creator. In the latest, ninth volume, Misery’ s Child, Misery perishes during childbirth, and, when Annie gets a copy, she is distraught and furious. “She can’t be dead!” screams the number-one fan, accusing Paul of being a murderer. Paul has, in fact, deliberately done away with his popular, lucrative character. “I haven’t been a writer since I got into the Misery business,” he told his New York a serious, Misery-free book, one that would escape the formulas that made his popular series beguiling page-turners, that he drove to remote Silver Creek Lodge in the Rockies. The completed manuscript of Paul’s bid for literary distinction lay beside him on the seat of his 1965 Mustang when Annie retrieved both it and its author from the snow. Paul’s gratitude toward his benefactor soon turns to concern and then panic when he witnesses Annie’s radical swings in mood. Cloyingly solicitous toward the talented invalid, she can suddenly turn hostile and violent. When Annie, who wears a crucifix and claims to be an agent of divine will, reads Paul’s new, untitled manuscript, she is outraged by its profanities and insists on incinerating it. She pours kerosene over the pages and hands a match to its bedridden author. “Can’t you see it’s what God wants?” asks Annie, as she coerces Paul into burning the only copy of his book. Insisting that Paul revive Misery, she locks him in the room with typewriter, paper, and instructions to create “nothing less than your masterpiece.” “Think of me as your inspiration,” says Annie, the deranged reader and despotic Muse. On May 31, 1817, Gioacchino Rossini was locked in a room by the director of La Scala until he finished the overture to La Gazza Ladra, which was to have its premiere that evening. Like Paul Sheldon, who writes Misery’s Return under duress, Rossini had no choice but to create on demand. Misery is a contemporary version of Scheherazade, a disturbing portrait of the artist compelled to use his storytelling art to save his own life. Like The Fan, which also featured Lauren Bacall, and Martin Scorsese’s The King of Comedy, and like John Lennon’s lethal encounter with Mark David Chapman, it is a ghastly reminder of the dangers posed by demented disciples. If Shakespeare were alive today, he would need a battalion of bodyguards to protect him from lunatic Lady Macbeths. Misery was adapted by screenwriter William Goldman from a novel by Stephen King, an author who is doubtless ambivalent about his own enormous commercial success. Though Rob Reiner’s closeups and oblique camera angles that tend to tighten the terror are the trademarks of King things like Carrie and The Dead Zone, Misery is, like Paul Sheldon’s burned, untitled manuscript, an attempt at something non-generic. The early sequence of a lonely drive along a chilly mountain road might recall the opening of The Shining, another King creation, but this film projects a bad conscience over the mass adulation its own author has enjoyed by appeasing his readers’ expectations. James Caan contributes a sympathetic performance as the conscientious and resourceful Paul desperate to pursue his art and save his life. Especially in it and in Kathy Bates’s rendition of his chubby, preachy scourge, one who idolizes Liberace almost as much as the creator of Misery Chastain and whose idea of an elegant dinner is meatloaf made with Spam, Misery is a writer’s fantasy of self-aggrandizement and self-pity. The plot obliges us to believe in the extraordinary acumen of a too many happenstances. But it is as a fable of the vengeance of the public on an author who seduces and then jilts it that writers and their secret sharers, readers, will wallow in Misery. 22 DECEMBER 7, 1990
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