Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Castle Rock Companion - A Good Marriage


A Good Marriage is a fairly short story in the middle of King's book Full Dark, No Stars, but it doesn't take long to stay with you.  It tells the story of Darcy Anderson, who thinks she has a happy home life and, while not perfect, certainly doting husband, until one day she finds something hidden in the garage that makes her realize he is actually the serial killer Beadie, a vicious murderer who rapes and tortures his victims before killing them.  King took inspiration from the real life story of Dennis Rader, a serial killer whose family had no idea who he was as well.  While Rader was caught by the police, in this story Darcy finds out first and decides to take action on her own rather than allow her family's lives to be ruined by being associated with the killer.

While Darcy's choice may not be the most realistic, I think King does a great job of making her logic sound.  You follow her through her pain and confusion and you really sympathize with her.  I really loved the way her husband comes home in the middle of the night and tells her he knows she's figured it out, and the two of them have a calm though also absurd conversation about it all.  King really does a great job of portraying a serial killer properly.  They're not madmen like Jack Torrence running through the Overlook Hotel, these are cold, calculated people who know exactly what they're doing.  The quiet moments the two of them spend together before Darcy finally goes about getting rid of him are chilling in their own way, and the moment when she finally pushes him down the stairs is appropriately tense and gruesome.  I also liked the appearance of retired detective Holt Ramsey at the end, a man that Beadie was so sure just thought of him as an "innocent witness" but in fact was really close to bringing him down.  His conversation with Darcy is both amusing and tense, and it's nice that he allows her to get away with her crime and have her peace.

I'm naming all these specifics in the story and talking about how they work because the film adaptation, with a screenplay written by King,  is incredibly close to the story and contains all of these elements.  The changes are small, like Darcy being addicted to eating Tootsie Rolls rather than Baby Ruth bars.  Ramsey shows up almost from the beginning of the story, watching over them, I suppose to create some form of tension that Beadie may be caught soon.  A new character is added, their neighbor Betty, who stands in as a model example of the type of women Beadie usually goes after and works to help remind Darcy that Bob will never truly stop this obsession with "snooty" women.  Bob also has a habit of leaving her notes around the house in the film, which I think is a nice clue to show the kind of controlling personality that psychopath's can have.  The film largely plays out exactly as the story does, with only an extra bit of evidence for Darcy thrown in as Bob gifts her the earrings of one his victims.

Unfortunately, despite these similarities, the movie has none of the tension of the story.  Things go by in a super quiet manner.  Joan Allen does a good job portraying Darcy's inner turmoil, but there's nothing about Anthony LaPaglia's performance that feels particularly threatening or dangerous.  We see him stalk women, but I just don't see enough of a detached, chilling manner from him to really show us he's Beadie.  There are a few scenes of Darcy imagining things or dreaming where they portray him as menacing, but they feel so unconnected from the rest of what we see in the film.  The film just sort of progresses along until it reaches the end.  They change around the ending slightly, having Darcy go see Ramsey in the hospital where you think for a moment she might suffocate him in his sleep so that he doesn't tell anyone what he knows, but that tension passes so quickly that you barely get to feel it.  I feel like a lot could have been done with the score, the editing, and the direction to try to make this film far more dynamic and tense.  I couldn't help but think of What Lies Beneath, another film where a woman suspects her husband is a murderer that manages to keep the tension strong throughout.

While I strongly recommend the short story (along with the rest of Full Dark, No Stars) I'm afraid the movie is simply a bland, lifeless adaptation not worth the watch.

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