Misery is a strong contender for my favorite Stephen King book and a lock for my favorite Stephen King movie adaptation. Yes, my being a writer has plenty to do with that fact, and if you don’t already know why, you soon will.
For the purposes of this entry, I’ll be referring to both the book and the movie, because while they’re both excellent standalone pieces, they handle different parts of the relationship well. The book takes advantage of plenty of internal monologue to explore Paul’s side of it more thoroughly than a movie could, but the movie has Kathy Bates, whose performance adds a whole lot of depth to Annie.
If you haven’t read or watched it, here’s how it goes:
Paul is a wildly popular cheesy romance author who’s just killed off his heroine, Misery, so he can reinvent his career. He gets in a car accident on a snowy, secluded mountain road, breaks both his legs, and is rescued by Annie, a former nurse and, in her own words, his number one fan.
The movie does the slow burn creepiness of this next part best.
They get to talking, he opens up about his career doubts and shows her the literary fiction manuscript he’s just finished.
Then the storm passes, the snow plows come through the road to town, and still her phone is out, and she’s not taking him to the hospital. She does go out and get the final Misery book though, and when she reads the ending, creepy turns horrifying.
****R Rating ahead****
Annie won’t accept just any sequel, either. She’s not the most sophisticated literary critic, but she knows lazy writing when she sees it, and it’s the one thing she won’t stand for. Well, that and escape attempts. That’s when this happens:
Their isolation makes it impossible for him to avoid being affected by her as well. He never goes full Stockholm syndrome in his head, but he does start to dread her sanest moments as well as her bad ones, because they make him aware of the good, fun person she could have been if she weren’t crazy. More importantly, he grudgingly realizes that having to write to please her is forcing him to be better at it, eventually curing him of his artistic crisis of faith.
In the movie, where much of Paul’s inner progress is lost in translation, he acknowledges Annie’s later influence on him in a one-off line after burning the new Misery book to distract her long enough for him to kill her and escape. In the book, my preferred ending, he burns what Annie thinks is the new Misery book and then publishes the real one and returns to the series with renewed enthusiasm.
So, yeah, this one’s got a happy ending.
For me, it’s that depth of influence they have on each other, beyond a simple power struggle, that pushes Paul and Annie above everyone’s other favorite nurse and patient, a pair who very nearly took this spot on the list.