Jun 18, 2014

Review: Dolores Claiborne (1995)

Like Misery, Dolores Claiborne is yet another Stephen King-based story with Kathy Bates in an important role. It's no coincidence since King himself was so impressed with Kathy Bates from Misery, that he actually wrote the Dolores Claiborne character with her in mind. Her performance in Misery was just brutal. It's no surprise that Kathy Bates gives another strong performance this time around.

Dolores Claiborne is no walk in the park, that's for sure. It deals with some pretty intense issues and doesn't tiptoe around any of them. It's also got a great cast besides Bates. Really, who doesn't like some Christopher Plummer? Director Taylor Hackford has a bit of a spotty record but Dolores is definitely one of his better films. One thing's for sure, this is not a movie to sit down and relax with. It's not a beer movie in any sense.


Genre: crime, drama, mystery
Directed by: Taylor Hackford
Produced by: Taylor Hackford, Charles Mulvehill, Gina Blumenfeld, etc.
Written by: Tony Gilroy
Music by: Danny Elfman
Running time: 132 minutes
Production company: Castle Rock Entertainment, Columbia Pictures Corporation
Distributed by: Columbia Pictures, Concorde-Castle Rock/Turner, Toho-Towa, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: N/A
Box office: $24,361,867 (North America)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Kathy Bates, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Judy Parfitt, Christopher Plummer, David Strathairn, Eric Bogosian, John C. Reilly, Ellen Muth, Bob Gunton




Dolores Claiborne (Kathy Bates) is a caretaker for Vera Donovan (Judy Parfitt). There's an unseen struggle between the two, resulting in Vera falling down the stairs violently. Dolores rushes into the kitchen, searching desperately for something and settles for a rolling pin. She runs back to Vera and raises the pin above her as if to hit the other woman before the mailman comes in the house. Vera dies and a police investigation begins to figure out what exactly went down.


Taylor Hackford directs this film with a steady hand. Present day Maine is grey and cold while Maine from the past is colourful and warm. It's a stark contrast and helps create the distinction between the two time periods. However, it's important to note that a lot of what is shown is not really what it seems. (Spoilers) For example, the scene where Joe St. George (David Strathairn) hits Dolores took the breath out of me. You don't expect it at all and it completely shatters the Maine of the past as being a happier time. (End Spoilers)

Characters who seem nice aren't necessarily and the same goes for less nice characters. In fact the whole story which is told with a series of flashbacks is slow to reveal the whole truth. Hackford keeps his cards close to his vest before divulging everything, leaving the viewer hungry for more truth. The movie never gets slow or plodding with this kind of storytelling and it succeeds in drawing the viewer in.

The final scene however is a bit of a let down. It's basically a mini courtroom drama sequence that takes the wind out of Dolores Claiborne's sails. I have to admit that it is mildly entertaining all the same. I can't give it more than mildly entertaining but in no way does it ruin the movie.

Taylor Hackford has done a great job at making Stephen King's novel work on the screen. Using all the flashbacks in a way that worked is definitely worthy of some praise and the cinematography also goes a long way in making this a special film. Danny Elfman has created an uncharacteristic score that sounds great and the entire cast does a great job in the acting department. If you have a little over two hours to kill and you're the mood for something serious, Dolores is a good place to start.



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