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The latest in his ever-growing canon of screen and television adaptations, Stephen King’s A Good Marriage is a decidedly minor entry that is mainly notable for representing the writer’s first big screen adaptation of his own material — in this case a novella from his 2010 collection Full Dark, No Stars — since 1989’s Pet Sematary. But despite the author’s scripting and the fine central performances by Joan Allen and Anthony LaPaglia, this low-key effort directed by Peter Askin fails to fulfill the potential of its provocative premise. Receiving a limited theatrical release, the film should find its largest audiences on home video formats.
The good marriage of the title is the one between upscale couple Bob and Darcy Anderson, who at the film’s beginning are happily celebrating their 25th anniversary, complete with some (demurely filmed) middle-aged nookie at evening’s end. The lovable Bob, whose eccentricities include an obsession with collecting rare pennies — he’s only interested in finding them in change, not buying them — leaves shortly thereafter on a business trip, with Darcy left alone at home.
Spooked by news accounts of the twelve rapes and murders of young woman committed by a serial killer known as “Beadie,” Darcy quickly shuts off the television after spying a similar scene in a slasher film. But the horror soon lands literally at home when, looking for batteries in her garage, she comes across incriminating evidence indicating that her mild-mannered husband is in reality a homicidal monster.
Reacting with the expected mixture of disbelief and horror, Darcy doesn’t know where to turn, especially when Bob comes home and immediately discovers that his ruse has been found out. Reacting not with anger but rather gentle reassurance — “I would never let Beadie hurt you,” he says about his alter-ego — he argues convincingly that no good will come out of her going to the police, and promises that if she stays silent he’ll stop his murderous extracurricular activities forever. She reluctantly agrees.
The resulting domestic tension is rife with darkly comedic and dramatic possibilities that were better exploited on the printed page, where King was able to more fully delineate his heroine’s tortured thought process. Here the scenario plays out in explicably bland fashion; director Askin fails to invest the material with sufficient cinematic style or nuance, with the resolution of Darcy’s moral dilemma proving particularly anti-climactic. Particularly irksome are the frustratingly fleeting appearances of a mysterious figure (Stephen Lang) whose relationship to the story is made clear towards the end.
Allen does as well as possible conveying her character’s complex emotions, and LaPaglia’s twisted husband is all the more chilling for his genial bonhomie. But for all these veteran performers’ fine efforts, the film ultimately feels like little more than a slightly above average episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
Production: Reno Productions
Cast: Joan Allen, Anthony LaPaglia, Stephen Lang, Cara Buono, Kristen Connolly, Mike O’Malley, Theo Stockman, Will Rogers
Director: Peter Askin
Screenwriter: Stephen King
Producers: Will Battersby, Per Melita, Peter Askin
Director of photography: Frank G. DeMarco
Editor: Colleen Sharp
Production designer: Sharon Lomofsky
Costume designer: Molly Maginnis
Composers: Danny Bensi, Saunder Jurriaans
Casting: Douglas Aibel, Henry Russell Bergstein
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