Dolores Claiborne works as a maid for a wealthy woman in remote Maine. When she is indicted for the elderly woman's murder, Dolores' daughter Selena returns from New York, where she has become a big-shot reporter. In the course of working out the details of what has happened, as well as some shady questions from the past and Selena's troubled childhood, many difficult truths are revealed about their family's domestic strife. This is cleverly portrayed with present reality shot in cool blue tones blending seamlessly into flashbacks shot in vivid color. As small town justice relentlessly grinds forward, surprises lie in store for the viewers....Written by
Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>
Somehow this gripping, brilliantly-acted thriller was overlooked and underrated when it was first released in 1995, but it's probably the best movie ever made from a Stephen King story.
Kathy Bates has never been better. Her acting is so strong, deep, and subtle, it's outrageous that she wasn't even nominated for the Academy Award. I think it's because the film was released early in the year and was out of theatres already when the nominations were made. She's better here than about ten Oscar-winning actors I can think of, put together -- a one-woman textbook of how to act for the screen.
Bates won an Oscar for MISERY, but she's better here, because the story and the character are more interesting, complex and challenging. With flawless technique, and great depth of feeling, she delivers one of the finest screen performances of the 1990s.
Okay, the denouement's a bit strained, and there's a sprinkling of stilted, hokey lines (Stephen King was never good at writing believable dialogue, and his addition of forced scatology and cussing doesn't make it any less stilted.) But overall the complicated story, which flashes back and forth over a period of twenty years, is extremely well-told. The constant shifting from past to present is never confusing -- an achievement in itself!
This film never found its audience, somehow, and even some critics missed how good it was. I notice Maltin's book now raves over the film, giving it 3 1/2 stars, the same rating he gives to THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. The violence here is more psychological than bloody, but DOLORES is every bit as good a thriller as LAMBS, and Bates, quite frankly, can act circles around Jodie Foster.
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