If you’re including theatrical releases, cable flicks, network TV movies, and mini-series from either side of the divide, there are well over 60 cinematic adaptations of Stephen King’s novels, novellas, and short stories. What began as a non-stop deluge of 1980s horror flicks (some very good, some very bad) turned into something a bit more mature and provocative with the arrivals of movies like Stand By Me (1986), Misery (1990), and The Shawshank Redemption (1994) — not to mention the excellent, underrated Dolores Claiborne (1995) — and then the adaptations kept on coming.
In other words, you’d have a hard time thinking of another author whose books have inspired such a wide array of full-bore junk (Graveyard Shift, The Mangler, Dreamcatcher) and legitimate classics (like The Mist, Pet Sematary, and David Cronenberg’s heartbreaking rendition of The Dead Zone) at the same time — and it’s safe to say that the newest entry on the list, A Good Marriage, is destined to land firmly in the middle of that list.
Based on the novella from King’s 2010 collection “Full Dark, No Stars,” A Good Marriage does a fine job of bringing the story and the juicier thematic elements from the book to the screen — which makes sense as King’ adapted the screenplay himself, which is something he hasn’t done since 1989’s Pet Sematary — but despite a consistently compelling lead performance from Joan Allen, much of A Good Marriage feels like a good stage play mixed with a good network TV movie. Note: all “good,” never “great.”
The plot has a cool enough hook to pull you in: middle-aged mom and doting wife Darcy (the aforementioned Joan Allen) discovers that her ostensibly perfect husband, Bob (Anthony LaPaglia), is in fact a ferocious serial killer who has been preying on women for years. But before you start getting visions of a next-generation revival of Sleeping With the Enemy, keep in mind that A Good Marriage is a suspense thriller more interested in loyalty, betrayal, and the lengths to which people will go to maintain the status quo than it is in chases, shocks, or shocking displays of violence.
Given the film’s somewhat overlit, over-polished veneer and the basic simplicity of its moral compass, A Good Marriage plays a lot like a straightforward cable TV presentation, but that’s hardly the worst criticism one could throw at a psychological thriller. And our thanks to supporting players Stephen Lang and Kristin Connolly for popping in and spicing things up just when the movie seems to need it.
Recommended mainly to Joan Allen fans, Stephen King aficionados, and people in their 60s who don’t see a ton of films but wouldn’t mind a new thriller that’s aimed at their age bracket, A Good Marriage is hardly the most exciting or memorable book-to-screen adaptation you’ll ever see, but, to be fair, it is a pretty solid adaptation of a basic but diverting novella. (Translation: if you dug the book, you’ll probably dig the movie. But it probably won’t stick in your memory banks for very long.)
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