We approach the ten year anniversary of the arrest and trial of Dennis Rader, the BTK killer. Rader’s identity was disclosed to the general public after he was taken into custody on February 25, 2005. He was married for 34 years. He was a Cub Scout leader and held a leadership position in his local Lutheran church. His family found out about his past when the rest of America did. Like Richard Kuklinski, Rader wore his “normal” face well. It may sound cliche, but he was very much hidden in plain sight.
The BTK case made for some scandalous source material for Stephen King. His original novella, “A Good Marriage,” was published in the “Full Dark, No Stars” collection in 2010. That novella was the basis for a 2014 film of the same title. A Good Marriage was directed by Peter Askin and features a screenplay by King himself. It stars Joan Allen as Darcy Anderson and Anthony Lapaglia as her husband, Bob Anderson.
The Andersons have been married for 25 years. They have 2 grown children and have a successful mail-order coin appraisal business. Bob has had a successful career as an accountant, and is esteemed by all who know him. Respected by his peers, adored by his children, Bob’s character is seemingly beyond reproach. After a power outage, Darcy stumbles into the garage looking for batteries. Her search reveals something about her husband’s past that mutilates every aspect of her life.
There are really only 2 people in this film, Allen and Lapaglia. Other characters come and go, but they exist primarily in the periphery. Even the couple’s children don’t have much bearing on the plot. Thus, the dialogue and plot development between Darcy and Bob is even more important. When we are introduced to them, we see them as a happily married couple, likely somewhere in their 50’s. It is said that they have achieved something rare, a “good marriage.” Bob and Darcy are easy to like, the film makes the viewer feel like they live just down the street.
Bob’s past is revealed in the first 15 minutes of the film, but even so I do my best to avoid spoilers. That being said, the film’s second act has Allen on her own. Using a solitary role well, particularly in scenes with no immediate dialogue, can be quite a cinematic feat. But Allen’s time by herself on the screen moves the film into some genuinely chilling moments. Her quaint and amicable suburban home becomes a tense labyrinth replete with suspense. Even during the daylight, the atmosphere of the home is authentically dreadful. Lapaglia commands the screen with his domineering presence. It was interesting to watch his duplicity unfold throughout the film’s progression.
When Bob confronts Darcy about snooping through his possessions, the viewer feels the palpable tension between the two characters. The film’s resolution sees Darcy crossing thresholds she did not previously think herself capable.
I recommend A Good Marriage for anyone looking for a better-than-average thriller somewhat based on true events.
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