Sunday, November 21, 2010

Kathy Bates in Misery

Kathy Bates received her first Oscar nomination and award for playing Annie Wilkes, a crazy fan of a writer in Rob Reiner's movie, Misery, based on Stephen King's popular novel. From what I've read Bates wasn't exactly the front-runner to win to the Oscar, her win seems to be obvious only nowadays. With this win, Bates went on to star in many other great movies, she successfully avoided being typecast and became one of the most reliable character actresses.

Misery is a great, scary and most of all exciting movie, which doesn't reach real heights, but it's extremely entertaining. It was pretty much a comeback for James Caan, who unfortunately got lost again, but he gave an excellent performance as the writer, who's trapped in a house, being tortured by a crazy fan. Richard Farnsworth is great too and we know exactly why we remember him so well in this movie and that twist is really upsetting.

However, the movie reached its iconic status due to the unforgettable Kathy Bates, who may not be giving her best performance (ahhem, Fried Green Tomatoes, no nomination, damn it), but she certainly is memorable as the wonderful crazy Annie. If we held a poll on the most popular Oscar winners, I am pretty sure, that she would be in the Top 5 at least, even though this win has been criticized a bit nowadays.

We all know Annie Wilkes. She's just one of us. She's the lovely chubby lady from the bank, the grocery store and the hospital. On the outside, she's just this fun-loving, crazily romantic, good-tempered woman, fantascizing about the prince charming saving her from her loneliness and her pathetic life. She comes across in her first scene as this woman: kind and chubby, being so fascinated by her favorite writer.

Kathy Bates really nailed all the faces of this very complex character: first of all, she's a faceless monster, something like Mo'Nique in Precious, pathetic, obese, watching TV, eating, doing absolutely nothing, except for being a total psycho. The other one is this lovely woman previously mentioned. I haven't read the book, but from what I've heard she's more of a faceless monster than a real human being. I think Bates made the right choice with showing the human side of Annie: her mood swings are sometimes terrifying, but sometimes they are simply ridiculous. I mean could you stop laughing when she acts like a fifteen-year-old and could you be more terrified when she is yelling about Rocket Man. She goes over-the-top, which would normally distract you, but here it's just the right thing to do.

However, I must tell, that I wasn't THAT scared by her. Of course, I can't forget the "hobbling" scene, but apart from that I felt that Bates mainly focused on the dramatic aspects of this character and by this she perfectly showed the loneliness and sadness of this character. Her bitter monologue about the power and influence of Misery on her life is just breathtaking, just like the one when she really gets the blues because of the rain. I actually felt SORRY for Annie, and she became a little symphatetic. And this was a very tricky thing to do: Kathy makes you actually like Annie or at least sympathize with her to a degree, but you also hate her. It is that you like her because you can hate her. And Kathy does this with such ease and she's never too forced, not even in the most over-the-top scenes. It's just breathtaking.

But again the hobbling, which is one of the most unforgettable and best acted scenes in motion picture history: she smashes the ankles of Paul and then she just says "God, I love you!". I mean it's such an embarassing moment for the viewer and we (just like Annie) do not know how to react. It's not only terrifying and creepy, but also a bit ridiculous. If we made a list on the most scary scenes ever, it would be in Top 3. It's not what you see, it's what Kathy Bates tries to hide to you. It's just brilliant. Not to mention the big fight in the end which is again very creepy (it reminded me a bit of Fatal Attraction, oh I can't wait to review Glenn).

When writing about her, I try not to be influenced by her performance's iconic status, but I just cannot forget it. Annie Wilkes is in motion picture history and (to quote her) Kathy Bates "had a little something to do with that"). With this crazy character, she created one of the most memorable screen villians in history, who is going to scare us for a long time. Breathtaking work by a great actress.
Anjelica's profile comes on Friday and Joanne's on Saturday along with the conclusions (not sooner unfortunately).

7 comments:

Sage Slowdive said...

Love her, such a unique actress...

dinasztie said...

She certainly is.

joe burns said...

I liked her, but somehow, I felt she went over the top. But she did a good job,none the less.

Louis Morgan said...

I agree here she is terrific, the type of of performance with a little over the topness works well actually.

Alex in Movieland said...

hmmm, I've seen all 4 but hardly remember Streep and Joanne seemed like ages ago (and what a bad film she had).

I'd never watch Misery again unless I'm forced to :) just that photo with the hammer that you've posted gives me chills.

dinasztie said...

Alex: Oh no, I'm already scared of Mr. & Mrs. Bridge. Even the thought of an Ivory-Merchant movie makes me sleepy. ZZZZzzzz...

Oh and you should be more self-torturing and watch Misery again. :) Once is not enough of Annie Wilkes. :)

Twister said...

Bates used to be one of my top favorites...and although I still admire her work, my appreciation has dropped a bit.

I know I'm being my technical "acting analysis" self again (I can't help it), but the performance wasn't as textured as it could have been. Hard to explain, but I didn't see the human beneath the monster (though flashes do show here and there) -- but she is still sooo damn scary. I can't watch the hobbling scene without looking away.