When you hear that Stephen King, the master of modern horror, is finally adapting one of his own works for the big screen, it’s easy to take notice. When you look at the principal two cast members of A Good Marriage in Joan Allen (who I adored in Searching for Bobby Fischer and The Ice Storm) and Anthony Lapaglia there something more to get excited about. Even though the last piece of fiction I read by King was Bag of Bones which was released in 1998, I still had high hopes for this project which is directed by Peter Askin whose documentary Trumbo was stunningly good. Does it lives up to its pedigree? Let’s take a look.
When the film opens, Darcy (Allen) and Bob (Lapaglia) seem to be a happy normal couple celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary with friends and family, ushering in a new era in their lives as they cruise towards retirement – Bob, a successful accountant, Darcy running the family rare coin business. But as we know in anything having to do with Stephen King, all is not what it seems. And usually when the twist or major plot point reveals itself (think Annie in Misery) it is absolutely terrifying, filling you with terror every time the character is on screen. But it’s here that this film has its misstep.
Only 30 minutes in, Bob and Darcy’s relationship takes a turn and not for the good. So we are left with 60+minutes for the situation to play itself out and we wait for the sadistic and twisted game of cat and mouse that only King could contrive to shine (no pun intended). But as we wait for the scenario to unfold, that sense of dread and doom that has filled so many other King tales is absent, and the worst part about it is that situation in the film is incredibly rife for horror-filled King shenanigans, which is disappointing. The two leads did a great job, however. Joan Allen is spot on as the unknowing wife and Anthony Lapaglia is deliciously sinister, which is hard to imagine after seeing him in So, I Married an Axe Murderer and Empire Records. Frankly, he nailed it. But, and it’s hard to believe that one might say this coming away from watching this film, maybe King wasn’t the right person to write this script. From those I’ve talked to who’ve read the novella, they say it had much more intensity to it than what we got on screen, which is hard to understand.
This film may suit others more than me and perhaps it’s because I haven’t remained a faithful King reader over the years. His fan base is an extremely large and dedicated group and may well find something in this film that I didn’t. Frankly, it just didn’t live up to what I would expect from King and maybe that was his aim, to throw us all a curveball and write a movie that changes up expectations. Or maybe not.
A Good Marriage is in theaters now.