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  Good Marriage, A Unhappy Anniversary
Year: 2014
Director: Peter Askin
Stars: Joan Allen, Anthony LaPaglia, Stephen Lang, Cara Buono, Kristen Connolly, Mike O'Malley, Theo Stockman, Will Rogers, Pun Bandhu, Terra Mackintosh, Robert Hogan, Sean Dugan, Danny Binstock, Kris Lundberg, Susan Blommaert, Roe Hartrampf, Rafe Terrizzi
Genre: Drama, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 1 vote)
Review: Darcy Anderson (Joan Allen) has just celebrated her wedding anniversary to her husband Bob (Anthony LaPaglia), and at the event she dances with him and admires their two children Petra (Kristen Connolly) and Donnie (Theo Stockman) who have grown up into successful adults. Really things could not have gone any better for her family, and all those years as a housewife to a man who travelled the country for his business have paid off in their way, for Darcy feels content. But what she doesn't know is that Bob holds a secret, and beneath that pleasant, even slightly dull, exterior he conceals the heart of a man who gets up to some very grim affairs when he's away. Darcy should have twigged when the news told of a serial killer...

A Good Marriage was the second adaptation of a Stephen King story from the collection of novellas Full Dark, No Stars to arrive in 2014, the other being a television movie that adapted his rape revenge tale Big Driver. The title of the book indicated the author was not going to allow any light into the yarns he was spinning this time, these were deeply serious and featured morally compromised characters who saw the only way out of their situations was to plunge themselves into harrowing acts, and none more than Darcy when she discovers quite by chance that her husband is a notorious mass murderer and must chew over her options - go to the police and ruin her life? Or take matters into her own hands?

Or just ignore the crimes and hope they will never happen again? That would seem the path of least resistance, but also the most compromised of the lot if some other woman, or women, are tortured and killed and she never did anything to prevent it when she was well aware of what Bob was capable. On the page, A Good Marriage was an absorbing study of that dilemma and Darcy came across as a fully rounded personality - King had been inspired by the notorious BTK Killer who had been caught recently to when he penned the story, pondering how a perfectly normal housewife would react if her other half turned out to be an utter monster. Yet though he penned the script, there was something lacking here.

Likely it was the style of director Peter Askin, or rather the lack of it, conveying King's plot in the blandest manner imaginable, ironically coming across as more of a TV movie than Big Driver had, and robbing the implications of their depth and gravity when this could have been an episode of any number of anthology series, only with swearing added to remind us this did indeed secure a cinema release. Joan Allen did well in depicting Darcy's thorough lack of remarkable aspects, but when it came to her latter scenes when she has made her decision on what to do about the killer she lives with, you were none too convinced that she would have made that transition, she seems far more of a mouse.

It was a pity, since the source threw up all sorts of interesting implications which went largely unexplored in the film, another example of why King was so difficult to adapt not only faithfully but successfully, a combination you might have thought the man himself would have been able to get right yet here appeared muted and without the details his writing could bring, flavourless and even hackneyed given this was something we had seen many times before. The whole idea that someone you are close to has this hidden darkness wasn't exactly original, so in the hands of a more ambitious group of filmmakers it rested on their methods to bring it to life, or death in the case of those who wind up that way, and that just wasn't there with a grey cast to the proceedings rather than the noirish look that could have lent the movie the doomladen atmosphere it needed. More frustrating was that it wasn't necessarily a terrible experience to watch, it was just unexceptional to a deadening degree, unlikely to win any converts to the writer if this was the best he could do in presenting his work.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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