No one takes obsessive fandom quite like Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates). On the surface, she seems like a nice, polite, helpful woman ready to take charge wherever her assistance is needed. But, on the inside, she is a psychotic book-loving nerd who changes her mood in seconds. Annie’s favorites novels are those in the Misery series, written by her favorite author, Paul Sheldon (James Caan). When she is blessed with the opportunity to nurse Paul back to health after he is left injured in a car accident during a snowstorm, she jumps on the chance. She later tells him, “I’m your number one fan,” a line that haunts and torments Paul for the rest of the movie as Annie puts him through days of torture and, well, misery.
Directed by Rob Reiner, Misery is based off of the Stephen King novel of the same title. One can only wonder if King came up with the idea for Misery from his own personal crazy fan experiences. After all, Annie really only sees herself as Paul’s “Number one fan,” and that’s why she takes it so personally when he kills off her beloved Misery character, in turn ending the series of trashy-romance novels. Annie seems like the poor, pudgy girl who sat in the back of class romanticizing over the boys she could never date and who never really grew up from her childhood life. Bates plays Annie with such ease, never faltering with the over-the-top antics she’s expected to pull on Paul, like smashing his legs with a sledgehammer or almost lighting his bed on fire.
While on the surface Annie seems like a nice girl, she has underlying mental problems that Paul becomes aware of early on. Paul is an author struggling to release himself from the chains of his Misery series which are not the kind of work he wants to continue with. At first, after his accident, he is grateful to have Annie there to help him, but as time goes on, he sees her wacky side and realizes its time for him to escape. The two go back and forth, coming up with cunning ways to trick one another, and each turn leads to more horror for Paul as his life is held in Annie’s hands.
Although Misery doesn’t inspire or provoke meaningful thought, it’s existence is to wreak terror among its viewers and it does just that. A great aspect of the movie is that it’s part horror, part comedy as the banter between Annie and Paul brings light to the situation. Despite fearing his life, Paul has a mirthful way about him when he’s dealing with his villain. He figures her out well enough to know exactly what to expect and how to bring her down. But in the end, Annie has terrified Paul to the point where he realizes he can never hear someone say “I’m your number one fan,” again without thinking of her.