Stephen King’s A Good Marriage (2014) Joan Hall Captivates Completely

Still from A Good Marriage with Joan Hall
Based on a Stephen King story, from his 2010 collection Full Dark, No Stars. A Good Marriage stars Joan Hall (Death Race, The Bourne Legacy), Anthony LaPaglia (Crazy Kind of Love, Mental), Kristen Connelly (Cabin in the woods, The Whispers) and Stephen Lang (Avatar, Conan the Barbarian) and is directed by Peter Askin (Trumbo, Company Man) and King himself adapted the story into a screenplay.

This is the first time since the 1989 film Pet Semetary that King has adapted his own work. In his novella, Darcy Anderson discovers that her “perfect” husband is, in fact, a notorious serial killer. She accidentally finds a box of trophy objects from the murders and she decides to take things into her own hands rather than contact the police.

In the film, Joan Allen captivates completely as the older partner who finds that her loving husband has a killer inside of him. Another personality called Beadie, who rapes, tortures and kills women and has done so for years. Allen shows every emotion that her character is going through on her face, not comically but subtly with just enough of a “tell” that we know what she is thinking.

The horror, shame, disgust and fear all mingle on her face and in her actions. Anthony LaPaglia, as Bob, is also impressively sinister and smarmy. The audience do not believe that he will stop for one moment. In one dream sequence, which seems frighteningly real, it is apparent that Darcy does not really think he will quit killing either.

The very fact that her husband has managed to keep this secret from her and their two kids for 12 years indicates a man who is obsessed. His workshop screams OCD, everything put neatly in its place, even his “evidence” box is specifically placed, which is how he knows that Darcy now knows his secret. Stephen Lang, as the retired detective, hovers about in the background ominously and later shows up to reveal that he knows that Bob Anderson was Beadie.

For those who have read the King novella, the story will already be familiar. That will not spoil the film though. Peter Askin does a great job keeping that other shoe dangling tantalizingly in the air as we wait for Darcy to decide how she is going to deal with this horrific discovery. The sly underlying horror is still in the movie.

The fact that her sick husband believes that everything will be fine and that she will accept his promise to never kill again shows just how far gone this “split personality” killer was. His glib explanation that he never killed anyone, that it was his dead friend Brian, aka BD, rolls off his tongue while Darcy listens in growing horror.

Stephen Lang’s Holt Ramsay rules the screen when he finally makes his appearance. His doomed ex-investigator, who clearly has lung cancer that is rapidly killing him, is a scene stealer. A Good Marriage is, however, Joan Hall’s film. She nails her performance and is so thoroughly convincing that she is reminiscent of the late great Geraldine Page in top form.

A splendid little film with spotless performances from its stars and a first rate adaptation from the master himself. Director Askin does a brilliant job as well; he is not afraid to have silence versus a score in a tense or emotional scene. A real 4 out of 5 star film available on US Netflix.

ARBOREATUM by Evans Light: The Apple of His Eye

UnknownARBOREATUM by Evans Light is a novella length story about  two settler families who have branched off from their main wagon train because of the religious rantings of their self-appointed leader, Lemuel. He  claims to have had a revelation about finding the Garden of Eden in the middle of the prairie that they are attempting to cross.

After the two families get lost and are starving, they find a valley that looks like Lemuel might just have been right. Unfortunately their way is blocked by a non-welcoming party of four indians. This doesn’t stop Lemuel though, he immediately blows one of the “warriors” head off and his friend and follower Sam Jenkins follows suit.

After all four of the indians have been murdered, the families take possession of this apparent paradise, things go wrong very quickly and it looks like they’d have been better off listening to the “locals.”

At 75 pages this just taps into “novella” territory, but the story moves at a good pace and I do have to say that I was impressed by the storyline and the twist. I certainly did not see that coming. So in terms of plot and plot devices, I was very pleased surprised. Something that does not happen too often these days.

My only complaint was the dialogue and some of the sentence phrasing. It had too much of a twentieth century feel to it.

At the beginning of the story, young Micah Jenkins (son of Sam, and yes I only just caught that) is thinking about how the two families got stranded in the middle of the prairie. When he reveals that the reason they became separated from the main group is because of Lemuel “going all messianic;”  the phrase is way too “modern.” The time period when the story is set would not have featured such a turn of phrase.

Another part of the story has Micah recalling how he caught Lemuel’s oldest daughter Anna in the act of “fondling” her private parts; but, Micah uses a very modern term to describe the part of her nether region that she was touching. Both of these sentences had the effect of taking me out of the story. I am reasonably sure that the slang term Micah uses in the story was not in vogue just yet. So like the previous phrase, both of these instances (these were the most obvious) took away from Evans’ tale.

But, the overall story and the action almost made up for it. As I said it was a brilliant idea and one that certainly impressed me. Just for the plot alone, I’ve given the book a 3 out of 5 stars. In terms of originality, I personally think it rates much higher, but, again the dialogue did not ring true for me. So the modern phrasing of the characters knocked the final rating down.

I’ll definitely be reading some more from Mr Light. If the rest of his works are as original, I don’t think I’ll be too disappointed.

Evans Light. Photo courtesy of Goodreads.com
Evans Light. Photo courtesy of Goodreads.com