The movie version of “A Good Marriage” made headlines recently when author Stephen King (who wrote the screenplay and the short story it’s based on) said in an interview that his story is loosely based on the BTK serial murders that began in Wichita in 1974.
Identified as BTK, Dennis Rader was captured by police and the FBI in 2005.
King’s statements prompted Rader's daughter, Kerri Rawson, to break the family’s nine-year silence. She first spoke to The Eagle on Sept. 25, saying King was exploiting the crimes and the victims.
King responded to the charges in an e-mailed statement to the Associated Press, saying that the character depicting Dennis Rader in “A Good Marriage” is “a banal little man.” He also said the story isn’t about the killer husband but about a brave and determined woman.
The film was released in theaters on Oct. 3. It did not open in Wichita, but it is available on video on demand outlets, Amazon Prime and iTunes.
Knowing BTK was the inspiration for the story compromises our view of the film, in a way. It sensationalizes what would have been just a modest thriller.
There is no reference to BTK or Wichita in the film. The closest comparison is that the killer in the movie goes by the name “Beadie.” After that, it really is a work of fiction.
The good marriage of the title is between Darcy (Joan Allen) and Bob (Anthony LaPaglia). We’re introduced to them as they’re celebrating their 25th anniversary.
They have a nice, pretty family and a nice, pretty home. (Everything is a little too idyllic, especially the way Darcy and Bob interact — it borders on cutesy.)
One day Bob goes away on business. And while he’s gone — yep, you guessed it — Darcy accidentally finds Bob’s stash of mementos from his murders. She is horrified when she finds IDs, pieces of clothing and jewelry.
The rest of the film is Darcy coming to grips with the monster she thought she knew.
The film starts to take on a surreal feel, and the use of dream sequences keeps us guessing if what we’re seeing is really happening or in Darcy’s head.
It’s a showy role for acting vet and thrice Oscar-nominated Allen, still looking radiant in her late 50s. She ably conveys being terrified on the inside while trying to appear as if everything is normal on the outside.
But the film’s low budget shows, and Peter Askin’s simple direction gives this a made-for-TV-movie feel.
LaPaglia is fittingly chilling as Bob, who clearly shows no remorse. But despite that and Allen’s strong performance, the film is never riveting, or even that compelling. We feel for Darcy, but we should fear for her. We never do.
The film’s tone is almost numbing and strangely devoid of energy.
But King was right. The film isn’t about the killer. It certainly doesn’t glamorize Bob — or BTK, or his actions.
Instead, the film tries to paint a portrait of a strong woman facing adversity who will go to extreme lengths to protect her kids from a horrible truth.
‘A Good Marriage’
Rated: R for violence/disturbing images, some sexuality and language
Starring: Joan Allen, Anthony LaPaglia
Directed by: Peter Askin