So you discover that your loving husband of 25 years is a notorious serial killer and are instantly overcome with devastation. That’s exactly what Joan Allen faces in her superb performance as long-suffering wife Darcy Anderson in Stephen King’s A Good Marriage, a tale of deception and heartbreak.
Originally written as one of four short stories in King’s 2010 novella Full Dark, No Stars and set in King’s native of Portland, Maine, A Good Marriage is a nail-biting thriller with plenty of twists and turns around every corner.
“This is not a movie where the husband chases the wife around the house” exclaims the cunning “devoted” husband Bob played by Anthony LaPaglia, breaking the fourth wall while assuring the audience that A Good Marriage has something slightly different on offer.
For one Darcy discovers her husband’s brutal deceit very early on allowing the rest of the film to focus on her struggle to live with him, battling her internal conflict to either carry on as normal or expose the man she once loved to his children. The film diverts away from conventionality as it doesn’t offer up gruesome murder scenes or take the route of predictability that a thriller of this kind often does.
The tension mounts in scenes such as their daughter Petra’s (Cabin in the Woods Star Kristen Connolly) wedding as well as the emphasis on flirty neighbour and best friend to Darcy, Betty (Cara Buono), will she become Bob’s next victim? Who is the mysterious figure watching the Anderson’s from a far and how much does he know?
A Good Marriage contains striking visuals that enhance the feeling of Darcy’s emotional state, a credit to Peter Askin’s direction. The shot of her stood centrally in the pouring rain in her back yard emphasizes the shock and heartbreak as her whole world comes crashing down on her, demonstrating her isolation. A graphic horror movie plays on the television which she is unable to turn off due to a fault with her remote, the catalyst that leads her to discover Bob’s double life. The scene indicates that she can’t turn away from the horror movie as her life is about to become one but in comparison to the film adamantly playing on the TV, A Good Marriage takes a more subtle approach without gore or torture scenes, leaving Bob’s atrocities purely implied.
When Bob explains his motivations completely unfazed to Darcy in the bedroom they’ve shared for quarter of a century, Darcy is faced with terror, she lies in their marital bed with her leg hanging out one side suggesting that she is undecided on what she’ll do about Bob’s lies, leaving the audience on tenterhooks. Will Darcy perform her role as the dutiful and happy wife to friends and family or will she expose her maniacal husband?
Anthony LaPaglia absolutely relishes in the role as the deceptive serial killer husband bordering on the comedic side with his frantic performance. What’s fun about the film is it doesn’t play it completely straight, it’s aware that this plot of the psychotic husband has been played out a thousand times and teases the audience that the film will take an unexpected turn while remaining tense and dramatic.
Character driven and female focused; A Good Marriage refreshingly has a strong, sophisticated and brave older woman at its core. Joan Allen completely makes the film allowing us to empathize with her. She continually convinces us of how afraid she is. She also has believable on screen partnership with LaPaglia. The last ten minutes or so do slow the pace down and there isn’t much space for developing the Anderson’s children Petra and Donnie (Theo Stockman), they come across as one
dimensional background characters. Despite that A Good Marriage is an enjoyable and somewhat campy genre flick that offers a different perspective on its sub-genre.
Read an interview with Stephen King and Joan Allen HERE