Dolores Claiborne Reviews
Dolores Claiborne: No, I'm just packing the get-away boat, so I can make my great escape.
Dolores Claiborne is a good drama from Stephen King that translates well to the screen. Kathy Bates gives a great performance as Dolores; a woman who is a suspect in a murder investigation. Jennifer Jason Leigh plays her daughter who has been gone for 15 years. A great supporting cast features Christopher Plummer, John C. Reilly, and Eric Bogosian(the guy from one of the most underrated films of all-time, Talk Radio). Danny Elfman gives the film a great score like always. It always makes me laugh when people complain about Stephen King books not being good movies. There's been Shawshank, The Green Mile, The Dead Zone, 1408, The Shining, Misery, Stand By Me, Carrie, Christine and Dolores Claiborne. Looks like they translate well.
And Kathy Bates is perfect for the role as Dolores.
"Dolores Claiborne" tells the story of a woman who is accused of murdering the wealthy woman she worked for as a maid in Maine. When her daughter Selena finds out that her mother is accused of this crime, she immediately returns home from New York, leaving her job as an important reporter behind for a while. But she doesn't return to support her mother as you might expect. No, she's almost certain that she did it and she seems to try to get a good story out of it. But gradually she finds out what really happened and in the meantime some awful things about Selena's troubled childhood, the awful family life,... come floating at the surface again.
I know that I said in the beginning of this review that most movies with such a subject are plain crap, but there are always expectations to every rule and "Dolores Claiborne" certainly is one of those exceptions. It was written by Stephen King and it shows. The man knows how to build up suspense and certainly can give you an uneasy feeling while reading his books or watching one of 'his' movies. And "Dolores Claiborne" has a lot more depth than you might expect at first. The only thing is that they have managed to disguise it, not giving away too much information at a time. Only at the end of the movie you'll fully understand what has happened and what the reason was for both women to react the way they did.
What I also liked, next to the story, was the way everything is shot. All the scenes in the present are shot in those cool blue tones, but these blend seamlessly into the flashbacks that were shot in vivid colors. This gives an extra touch to the story that certainly works. You know exactly what is the present and what is the past, but those colors also add a lot to the drama.
But the way a movie was shot alone doesn't make it good of course. That's what good actors who do some excellent things are for. And that's also exactly what you'll get from Kathy Bates, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Christopher Plummer... Jennifer Jason Leigh is nice as the daughter, but it's Kathy Bates and Christopher Plummer who give away the best performances in my opinion. Bates is stunning as the tormented woman who's personality seems so strong, while in reality she is a broken soul who wishes for nothing much but to die as soon as possible, so all her misery can end. And I also loved Plummer as Detective John Mackey who's hate against Dolores is so big, because she is the only spot on an almost spotless career. He has solved all his cases except for one and he'll not rest until he can send Dolores to jail.
All in all this is a very good and suspenseful movie that never tries to become a tearjerker, despite the heavy subject. It offers some great acting, nice photography and a good story
The movie switches between the present and the past as the layers of each character's story and motivations unfold, showing a deeper side to Dolores and enabling Jennifer Jason Leigh (the daughter) to finally grow up and see her mother for the resilient woman she is: a woman who will do anything to protect her child. It is wonderfully written, brilliantly acted, and you will not be able to keep yourself from cheering Dolores on, as she watches her husband fall down that pit.
Judy Parfitt is Vera Donovan, Dolores' rich employer who teaches her that "sometimes being a bitch is the only thing a woman has". She explains to Dolores how "husbands die every day" after she finds out about Dolores' home life and it is terrifying how convinced she is on the subject. She is astounding. Her performances as both rich/cold matron with a soft spot to stroke victim years later is compelling to watch.
Dolores's daughter, Jennifer comes across as an uncaring, bitter and selfish girl, but as the story unfolds, again we learn why and understand. The last ten minutes, when Jennifer is at her best, beats many of the great court room dramas that I have seen lately. This is one of the best Stephen King movies there is!