Novelist Paul Sheldon (James Caan) doesn't remember the blinding blizzard that sent his car spinning off the road. Nor does he remember being nursed back from unconsciousness. All he remembers is waking up in the home of Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) - a maniacal fan who is bent on keeping her favourite writer as her personal prisoner... for the rest of his cock-a-doody life!
James Caan plays writer Paul Sheldon. When he crashes his car in a ferocious snow-storm, it proves to be a very bad day for him. For Annie Wilkes, it proves to be an improbably good day, for not only does she find and rescue him from the wreckage, but the situation allows her to look after a hero of hers – she is an his ‘number one fan’ – as he convalesces in her spacious home.
Every actor in this small cast has been blessed with a wonderfully expressive face. Director Rob Reiner seems very happy to film a lot of moments in close-up. This leads us to appreciate every raised eyebrow, every wistful look into space and to determine exactly the kind of mood Annie happens to be in on her latest visit to Sheldon’s sickbed. The camera often almost zooms into her face as she walks into a scene – most effectively following the film’s most harrowing scene which guarantees more than a wince, when she coos ‘God, I love you.’
She has his books set aside as soon as they are released, she has a documented – notorious even – history of violent, murderous behaviour, she walks around town with her pet pig and is clearly a tolerated local eccentric. And yet it takes local Sheriff Buster – yes, that’s right (Richard Farnsworth), forever to conclude she may have something to do with his disappearance. Farnsworth has also been blessed with eloquent features, and we immediately warm to Buster’s kindly ways. Which is just as well, because otherwise our patience would be sapped by his inability to recognise the blatantly obvious.
So while the story takes a lot of investing into – the coincidence of Annie’s hero falling into her proverbial lap, and the Sheriff’s hopelessness – the cast and stark direction gives the production its legendary status.