A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Stephen King's A Good Marriage is a creepy horror thriller based on the prolific author's novella, which he adapted himself into the film's screenplay. Since the movie follows a 50-something married couple instead of young adults, it's unlikely to appeal to teens unless they're already big King fans. There are some mature themes and a few violent scenes -- including close-ups of crime photographs showing murdered women, moments of a man following women he's going to kill (the actual murders take place off camera), and one murder that's staged like an accident. The language is occasionally salty ("f--k," "s--t"), but it's the violence, emotional/marital abuse, and sex that make this too mature for younger audiences.
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What's the story?
STEPHEN KING'S A GOOD MARRIAGE is the adaptation of King's novella about Bob and Darcy Anderson (Anthony LaPaglia and Joan Allen), a 50-something couple that, on the surface, has everything going for them: two successful adult kids, a thriving rare coin business, and a stellar reputation in their Maine community. On their 25th anniversary, Bob gives Darcy a pair of gold fish earrings, claiming it's because she's a Pisces. The next day, Bob leaves on a business trip (he's also an accountant), and Darcy finds something extremely disturbing hidden in her garage: a trinket box holding the driver's license of a woman who had just been in the news for being brutally raped and murdered by a suspected serial killer called "Beadie." After Googling everything about Beadie, Darcy goes to bed devastated with the knowledge that her husband is most probably a killer. When Bob returns home early and finds out that Darcy knows the truth, he confesses but then threatens her and convinces her to keep quiet -- if not for them, then for the "safety" of their kids. Will Darcy agree to keep her husband's horrifying secret or take matters into her own hands?
Is it any good?
Most of the movie is just OK, not get-under-your-skin scary (The Shining, Carrie) or unforgettable (The Green Mile and Shawshank). A Good Marriage is the first page-to-screen adaptation of King's work that he's adapted himself since Pet Sematary, and the horror master keeps the details of his characters' idiosyncrasies high (Bob prefers finding rare pennies in his change to paying for them; Darcy has a thing for eating Tootsie Rolls; Bob leaves little notes for Darcy tucked around the house), so the marriage feels realistic and satisfying -- that is, until Darcy figures out that her beloved is a wanted serial killer. That makes the movie feel like a domestic-drama TV movie -- the kind where the wife discovers her husband is really a bigamist/white-collar criminal/fraud/etc.
Allen does the best she can to transform into an emotionally tortured, frightened wife pretending that she can deal with her husband's horrific history, and LaPaglia lets himself get comfortable with crazed looks and quiet terror. Since the audience knows from the opening scene that Bob is a creepy stalker, it's Darcy's decisions after finding out that her husband's a killer that should be fascinating. And a few scenes are gripping, as Darcy descends into darkness to move forward with her life. Allen is such an accomplished actress that she manages to make Darcy more than a clueless housewife.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether A Good Marriage is scary. What's frightening about it? What's the appeal of horror movies and TV shows about hidden sociopaths?
Discuss the popularity of Stephen King adaptations. Where does A Good Marriage stack up against his most famous adaptations?
Do you think Darcy would have been blamed or mistrusted if the truth came out, like Bob said?
- In theaters: October 3, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: December 30, 2014
- Cast: Joan Allen, Anthony LaPaglia, Stephen Lang
- Director: Peter Askin
- Studio: Screen Media Films
- Genre: Thriller
- Topics: Book Characters
- Run time: 102 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence/disturbing images, some sexuality and language
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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