“Unlikely to linger much in the mind.”
It’s fair to say that a great many adaptations of the work of Stephen King have been stinkers, but, those films adapted from his novella length pieces have given us a fair share of the best movies from his work such as Stand by Me (1986), The Mist (2007), Apt Pupil (1998) and, in particular, The Shawshank Redemption (1994). This coupled with the fact that King himself has provided the screenplay this time around, his first movie adaptation of his own work since Pet Sematary (1986), had led to high hopes for A Good Marriage (2014). Sadly it falls some way short of the benchmark set by those earlier novella adaptations.
The plot sticks fairly close to the novella that appeared in King’s 2010 collection Full Dark, No Stars as Darcy Anderson (Joan Allen) stumbles upon a secret compartment in the garage one night whilst her husband of twenty-five years, Bob Anderson (Anthony LaPaglia), is out on the road with work. Within the secret compartment is a set of identification cards belonging to a young woman who is believed to be the most recent victim of a serial killer called Beadie known for sending a piece of ID from each victim to taunt the police. The film continues with Darcy wrestling with both the realisation that the man she thought she knew has a secret side and the desire to protect her children from the potential recriminations should she go to the police.
In a departure from the source story there is the inclusion of a best friend for Darcy, Betty (Cara Buono), who is depicted as being a source of lust for Bob. This felt an unnecessary embellishment and seemed to counter the insinuation that Bob has been able to hide his murderous desires all these years from his wife and family. There is also a slightly increased role for Holt Ramsey (Stephen Lang), a retired detective who is on the trail of Beadie and has his suspicions of both Bob and Darcy.
Whilst the performances from all three main actors are solid and make the characters believable the direction is uninspiring and lacking in any imaginative flair. The use of imagined news reports when Darcy is contemplating how the revelations could play out, obvious dream sequences, and moodily lit but unengaging night driving scenes as Bob stalks potential victims give things the feel of a run-of-the-mill TV movie.
The biggest problems with this movie version are that the embellished ending over-does the physical confrontation between the married couple, which comes close to eroding the viewer’s empathy for Darcy, and the final conversation between Darcy and Hoyt lacks the subtlety and emotional resonance of the more succinct culmination depicted in the print version.
A Good Marriage is by no means a terrible movie, it just isn’t a terribly great one either, providing a mildly diverting way to spend ninety minutes that is unlikely to linger much in the mind once the final credits have rolled.
Director: Peter Askin
Starring: Joan Allen, Anthony LaPaglia and Stephen Lang
Release date: 13th April 2015