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Misery - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Chapter 17 of FG is up--the one with Andromeda's book. Minor stylistic tweaks.

I'm watching Misery right now. Kathy Bates was so good as Annie. But I have to wonder... why on Earth did they change the whole theme? I don't just mean that in the usual Fern-snit-about-stupid-movie-changes way, since I like the movie. It was just a very, very puzzling choice.

Oh, I know, I know. It's just a run-of-the-mill King shocker. Let's be honest--the whole plot about Paul coming to understand that the Misery books were his true calling and the literary shlock was empty-headed junk was just a backdrop for Annie chopping bits off of him. It might even have been a self-indulgent theme for a guy who wrote books that critics savaged. However, whatever its reasoning, the theme is threaded through the front-story very tightly. The plot begins with him having finished what he considers his masterpiece and getting drunk and driving off, then proceeds through him being forced back into Misery's world, where he's able to find his imagination to escape what Annie is doing to him, and ends with him coming to terms with the fact that he loves Misery as much as his crazy fans do. It's a change he goes through. In the movie version, he starts out bragging about how happy he is to be away from Misery, gets trapped by Annie, then ends it in exactly the same place he started--he's re-written the novel she burned, having learned nothing about himself through the ordeal.

I might have thought this was just my own quirky canon-purist reaction, but I first saw the movie with someone who hadn't read the book and didn't know how it ended (nor had I enlightened him, I swear). We got out of the theater and he frowned and said, "Awesome movie, but shouldn't he have published Misery's Return at the end?"

That's, I think, the first time I really gave thought to how the theme operated as a throughline. It wasn't just oddball backstory material that I happened to like and was annoyed to miss; it was apparently something that was an integral part of the primary storyline, even to someone who didn't know it was there.

The reason is that there was never struggle about the new novel (Fast Cars in the book; I don't remember the title they used in the movie); every bit of conflict raged around Paul's relationship with Misery and Annie's relationship with both of them. Fast Cars is never more than a set piece, something for Paul to mope about before he starts doing his real work and recovering. Because Fast Cars isn't part of the conflict, it falls flat as being part of the climax and denouement. It's Misery who breathes, Misery's world that pulls everything together (even though, in the movie, we don't actually take forays into it). So leaving her out of the ending is like leaving out the major support beam!

Maybe the screenwriter thought, as Paul did at the beginning, that purple genre work couldn't possibly be sincere, and the other one must have been? I don't know. I can't think of what on earth would have prompted a change that didn't fit with the storyline and didn't answer story questions. It didn't cut any time or make any different visual impact. It was just... really random.


I still think it would be fun for the next mangled Stephen King series to be Paul getting stuck in Misery's world, where Annie is still alive, and having to escape, with the help of his characters. He could solve mysteries along the way and everything. ;p
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moonspinner From: moonspinner Date: March 1st, 2008 03:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
The next series? Is there a Misery sequel? I've not watched the movie but now I know it changes the story so fundamentally, I won't bother.

The moral of Misery Returns was something like the phoenix from the ashes. Paul made his best work through the most Hellish of circumstances because of his "muse" (for lack of a better word) who refused to let him cheat both himself and the story.

Edited at 2008-03-01 03:51 pm (UTC)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 1st, 2008 04:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hee, no, I've just made a couple of joking posts about new ways to mangle King for television, a la The Dead Zone or Firestarter: Rekindled and that's one of them.

Kathy Bates is the most amazing Annie you could imagine. That's why the change in theme was so bizarre--if it hadn't been otherwise reasonably good, you might not have noticed this big sore thumb sticking out of it, like Paul's from his birthday cake.
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From: (Anonymous) Date: March 1st, 2008 09:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Heh, yes, there are so many rants to be made about PJ's trilogy (I gave up, screaming and tearing at my hair, when FRODO HID FROM THE TROLL IN MORIA), but of course, that was the brilliant and unsurpassed adaptation that everyone's supposed to aspire to. What? Me, for a great adaptation that gets the theme even though it changed a lot of minor details, I will always, always go for Shawshank Redemption. That's how to adapt.

I can see, with a deep wrench, having to give up the Scouring for the sake of time, but the fact that it was tossed off as so much fluff that no one would really care about... that's where my vote is going for "He didn't get it in the first place."
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 1st, 2008 09:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
(That was me.)
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 1st, 2008 08:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think the same author who wrote The Princess Bride did the screenplay for Misery (at least, he says he did in the beginning of the humorous and as yet unfinished sequel to Princess Bride, although that didn't stop him from publishing it [he also allows himself a humorous conversation with King in the story when King has supposedly accepted the job of writing The Princess Bride sequel from some other people. It seems he has relatives in the fictional country where Princess Bride happened and still visits them regularly]).

Anyhow, he doesn't _mention_ some studio exec telling him that, no, he can't have the character continue Misery at the end because it will be too confusing for the viewers or something like that, but you never know.

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 1st, 2008 09:22 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think where an "it would be too confusing for viewers" would continue to puzzle me is that the ending they had was more confusing, since it didn't connect to the story they'd told. I'd write it off as just my own expectations, except that non-book-readers also seem to have caught it and said, "What?"

So... I can't think of any practical reason!
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 2nd, 2008 03:09 am (UTC) (Link)
"Confusing to viewers" seems to be one of those things that actually means the studio execs never read the book, have no clue why people liked the book, but they're sure their idea is much better.

They're also certain that the average viewer finds Peanuts comics too complicated and abstract.

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