Dolores Claiborne Reviews
and if that don't do it for you, here's another quote from the movie:
"Sometimes, being a bitch is all a woman has to hang onto."
I liked the book that this is based on quite a bit, and I think they did a dang good job with this movie! And it helps to no end that Kathy Bates is just an amazing actress! She's 2 for 2 in Stephen King movies, in my book, and I hope she goes for 3 some day! I liked the use of colors in this film, especially as it applied to flashback memories. Well done! I didn't like Selena's bigger role, bigger than in the book, but I think it probably works that way better in a movie. I'd still say the book is better, as I almost always do, but this movie is a good one! And Kathy Bates, well, she is a GREAT one!
Described above is the opening scene of 1945's "Mildred Pierce," the iconic Joan Crawford starring melodrama that made the intricacies of the women's picture fresh again, dangerous and erotic after years of lulling about in the hands of Bette Davis, of Greer Garson. A film of luminous drama and mystery that covers one woman's quest for love and happiness in a cruel world, a single question rests above our heads until the finale reveals all - is Mildred Pierce, our heroine, a murderer?
Such a question is similarly posed at the beginning of 1995's "Dolores Claiborne," an adaptation of the Stephen King novel of the same name that was, in no doubt, conceptualized with Crawford and her cohorts in mind. In its introduction, we're taken to the foot of a staircase, where, at its top, a struggle is ensuing. We can only see the shadows of an elderly, wheelchair-bound figure, and a larger, tougher one, the weaker apparently struggling for her life as the stronger fights to push her over the edge. "Dolores!" the enervated screams as she tumbles down the stairs. Dolores slowly follows, turmoil raging in her eyes. Her apparent victim begs for her misery to end, but before her would-be killer can finish the job, they are interrupted by a nosy mailman. The woman dies of her injuries. Was it Dolores Claiborne, the woman's middle-aged caretaker, the one responsible for the accident?
"Dolores Claiborne" is a riveting psychodrama as indebted to the women's pictures that came before it as it is to the later horror movies that also starred many of its leading ladies. We have hints of "The Letter" and "Mildred Pierce," but we also are confronted with tastes of "Hush ... Hush, Sweet Charlotte" and "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?," it all wrapped up in a gothic package of lucent enigma. Did Dolores Claiborne murder Vera Donovan (Judy Parfitt), the woman she worked under for overs two decades?
Played by Kathy Bates with august sincerity, Dolores is not as simple as she first appears. Taking Bates's characterization in 1990's "Misery," another King adaptation, into consideration, we might expect her to be a killer. But we find that her Dolores is more a woman forced to survive in a world that seems to have something against her, her being accused of murder yet another setback in a hopelessly unlucky life.
Her daughter, Selena St. George (Jennifer Jason Leigh), wants nothing to do with her. An ace reporter stationed in New York, she has not spoken to her mother in fifteen years and does not plan to end the estrangement any time soon. But when she receives a fax that informs her of Dolores's current predicament, she's compelled to travel back to her hometown, despite planning to shortly depart to Arizona in hopes of a conducting research for a smashing story.
The small Maine town where she grew up is a complete departure from the city she presently lives in, being so minuscule that all of its residents seem to have an opinion about every member of the population. Dolores's reputation is certainly the worst, with the presently binding murder accusation, with the mysterious death of her husband (David Strathairn), acting as key factors in the region's distrust. Selena is no different. She is also under the impression that Dolores killed her father, who she remembers as rough but loving, and believes that her mother most likely did push the helpless Vera down the stairs. The relationship is unstable, but flashbacks reveal that their past is comprised of more than just a few bad exchanges, and that there is more than what meets the eye.
To say what those tragedies are, though, would only spoil the way "Dolores Claiborne" so formidably unravels. It commences simply enough, only to grow expansively elaborate as flashbacks gradually reveal the trials and tribulations of its title character's past. We are given a better understanding of the man her husband really was (an abusive drunk), the relationship she really had with Vera Donovan, and how she really treated Selena before their disaffection grew inoperable. These flashbacks, ironically photographed with supple pigmentation, make for huge contrast between the dark atmosphere of the film's present, perhaps directing us toward the conclusion that Dolores and Selena's current lives would bear that same Technicolor had familial misunderstandings and emotional turmoil not so drastically tainted their perceptions of one another.
Directed by Taylor Hackford and written by Tony Gilroy, we are pressed to think of another King adaptation so prosperously histrionic (besides the more obvious examples provided by "Carrie," "The Shining," "Misery"). I read the novel myself a few years ago, and though I remember it being a departure from his usual macabre ways, I certainly have no recollection of it being so ambitious, so dramatically effective. It's a slow-burning, worthy experience, heightened by phenomenal performances by Bates and Leigh; Christopher Plummer's supporting role, as the mischievous lawyer out to tarnish the remnants of Dolores's reputation, is masterfully unsettling, and Strathairn is fittingly loathsome as the husband of every woman's nightmares.
But best of all about "Dolores Claiborne" is the way it stirringly concocts a hellacious bad dream construed out of events that undoubtedly (and shamefully) occur every hour. King's works remain so timeless because there's always a small hint of reality embedded in their terrifying installations; "Dolores Claiborne" is a fine example, taking place in a world where the supernatural play no part in the downfall of the innocent. Harm is in the hands of those who walk among us, and that's spine-chilling in and of itself.