A Good Marriage (2014)

*. What a frustrating movie.
*. Frustrating because the potential was there. It’s full title is Stephen King’s A Good Marriage, which tells us it’s based on the novella of the same name by King and which he adapted and wrote the screenplay for himself (something he doesn’t do very often).
*. Normally that wouldn’t excite me much, but it’s a script that up-ends expectations. It’s not just another take on the serial-killer-next-door or I-married-an-axe-murderer trope. Inspired by the story of the “BTK Killer” Dennis Rader, we don’t see any of the husband’s violence at all. We don’t believe him when he says he’s going to go straight, but we don’t see him killing anyone either.
*. Instead it’s a story that addresses the question of compromise. We often think about this when we hear about the arrest of some terrible criminal on the news who turned out to be a married man leading a seemingly normal life. How could his wife not have known? Well, what if she did?
*. So it’s not the movie you’d expect. There are no slow suspenseful build-ups or sudden frightening scenes. The wife (Joan Allen) discovers what her husband (Anthony LaPaglia) is up to pretty early on, but he can matter-of-factly inform her that this isn’t going be like some movie. She should go along with things as they are and keep up appearances, if only for the sake of their adult children, who are just setting out on lives of their own (one is getting married and the other’s business is starting to take off).
*. You could imagine a really good movie being made out of this material. This is why A Good Marriage is frustrating.
*. Things just fail to ignite. The premise has a lot of dramatic potential but it all seems so pat and tame. The decision to play it as an understated and quiet drama, with a pair of older leads, was bold. But there’s no spark. I wasn’t interested in what was going on at all. Everyone has to share the blame. King’s script doesn’t develop things beyond the initial premise. Peter Askin’s direction is inert. LaPaglia is miscast.
*. It’s a shame because I had the sense that they were daring to do something a bit different. They were not, however, successful in their attempt. Just a few years later there’d be a more conventional and literal adaptation of the BTK story, The Clovehitch Killer, that also focused more on strained family relationships than on murder. While not perfect, it’s a much better movie than this.

4 thoughts on “A Good Marriage (2014)

    1. Alex Good Post author

      The potential was here, but in 2014 I don’t think King was the guy to tell this particular story. I kept thinking this was a movie that might have been something in the ’80s.

      Reply
      1. tensecondsfromnow

        King’s work was so emblematic of the 80’s, and yet I feel he’s never quite been out of fashion. But his big, splashy work generally films better than his more suble pieces…

      2. Alex Good Post author

        King is a solid craftsman, and a smart guy, but his creative peak was really the ’80s. Even the new It felt out of place to me.

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