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Year:
1995
Country:
USA
Genre:
Crime, Drama, Thriller, Mystery
IMDB rating:
7.4
Director:
Taylor Hackford

 

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Kathy Bates as Dolores Claiborne
Jennifer Jason Leigh as Selena St. George
Judy Parfitt as Vera Donovan
Christopher Plummer as Det. John Mackey
David Strathairn as Joe St. George
Eric Bogosian as Peter
John C. Reilly as Const. Frank Stamshaw
Ellen Muth as Young Selena
Bob Gunton as Mr. Pease
Roy Cooper as Magistrate
Wayne Robson as Sammy Marchant
Ruth Marshall as Secretary
Weldon Allen as Bartender
Tom Gallant as Searcher
Dolores Claiborne Storyline: 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....
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Reviews
Shocking film
I watched this last night and woke this morning still thinking about it. The horror of this film is on par with King's best -- except this time its real, and believable. With stunning cinematography of the (typical King) New England coastal town, and fine performances by supporting actors Leigh, Plummer, and Parfitt, this film kept me on the edge of my couch until the end, where, sadly, the plot seams begin to stretch and fray, a bit. Even so, the strength of the story, and performances carried it through for me. What shocked me today, was realizing that Kathy Bates did not receive an academy award nomination for her stunning work in this film. She is simply awesome, by Gob..
2014-03-11
Bates knows how to get even!
Wow! I must say that I was very impressed with the screen adaption of Dolores Claiborne. The things that really impressed me was Kathy Bates and Jennifer Jason Leigh's dazzling performances (also, keep your eyes open for Ellen Mull, who plays a younger version of Leigh's character, and couldn't look more like her, unless she was her.) It is a story about a New England maid, Dolores Claiborne (Bates), who is accused of killing the older, sick woman she worked for (Judy Parfitt.) Dolores's daughter, Selena (Leigh), comes back, and old secrets are revealed about the death of Selena's father (David Straithairn.) With two cops (Christopher Plummer and John C. Reilly) after her, Dolores must prove that she is innocent...Or confess that she is guilty. Suspense, drama, and wonderful performances makes "Dolores Claiborne" a winner!
1999-07-28
A Beautiful, Beautiful, Powerful Film
It's rare that a film can capture a story from a novel and beautifully adapt it for the screen and in fact turn it into something somehow unique at the same time. So it is with "Dolores". A co-worker, who is a Stephen King aficionado, cited this one shining example of a movie version of one of his books that she actually preferred to the novel. Right away, as the viewer, you are thrown into a car with a broken family, an unstable mother and her estranged stand-offish grown daughter, glimpsing a small, isolated, suspicious island community on the way to the old family home full of painful, bitter memories - and you spend the rest of the movie discovering their hidden secrets. Kathy Bates is once again equal to the task of the marvelously enigmatic title role character but I found Jennifer Jason Leigh spell-binding as the spiteful, lost, embittered daughter. It is her slow, slow shedding of this bitterness towards her mother that is the essence of this movie. There is a scene between the two that I consider one of the best scenes in all of film - period. How JJL failed to garner attention for her performance here is incomprehensible. The film's use of flash-backs throughout places you 'back' and enables you to get a feel for Dolores and her thoughts and actions for yourself as well as her family, her marriage, her home, and her small community. YOU get to decide if Dolores is guilty of murder. Christopher Plummer is also well cast as the thorough, relentless investigator who pursues her and who has his own secrets. Lastly, I have put a spoiler warning here because I want to mention the last scene. Fittingly, it is between mother and daughter. Earlier in the film, Dolores had told her daughter: "I don't CARE what other people think (about what she did)! It's what YOU think that matters!" At the end, JJL solemnly declares: "I'm not sure how to feel about what you did. Maybe I never will. But I know you did it for me." I recommend this film to anyone who has ever suffered because of, or ever been hurt by, the ones he/she loves. It's a gem.
2005-09-14
Great talent at work in this movie
Dolores Claiborne brings together a number of great acting talents in a highly entertaining movie that probes the dark past of a small town. The cast was outstanding, including Kathy Bates, Judy Parfitt, and Christopher Plummer; as well as Jennifer Jason Leigh and David Straithairn in a movie with a number of overlapping themes - strained family relationships, small town animosities, alcoholism, the overbearing boss, marital discord, murder... it's all there. This movie weaves all of them into a great story that reaches a climax with a solar eclipse above cabin cruisers in a bay of the Atlantic Ocean. Based on another Stephen King novel set in Maine, this complex set of interesting characters keeps us fixed to the screen. The story revolved around the relationships between Dolores Claiborne (Bates) and the people in her story: her drunken, abusive husband (Strathairn), her overbearing employer (Parfitt), her estranged but feisty daughter (Leigh), and the tough local cop (Plummer). I particularly liked Judy Parfitt, a star of the British stage and screen, the elegant but exploiting employer, who counted the number of clothespins on the line and who became a bedridden tyrant. Plummer was at his best as the sheriff out to nail Dolores. Jennifer Jason Leigh was the offspring of Dolores and her husband Joe St. George who carried the scars from childhood of their strained relationship. The movie was shot in Nova Scotia, not Maine, and there are a number of dead giveaways that a Nova Scotian or Canadian would notice. The Josua Slocum, the ferry running to the island, is one of the ferries off The Digby Neck. There are great shots of the Lunenburg Academy and the scrubby coastal landscape of the south shore of Nova Scotia. The visuals add to the pleasure of this well acted and smartly scripted movie. I think Stephen King's novel was well presented in this movie. There were violent scenes of course but to my mind, the characters and acting did the novel justice.
2014-02-02
One of Stephen King's best movies
I first saw this movie on TV a couple of years ago but recently purchased it on DVD and watched it for a second time. It certainly is worth a second viewing.

IMO this is the best adaption of a King book after Shawshank Redemption. If I described the plot it would sound boring - the movie is anything but - it's fast paced, interesting and has a serious point to make. Because it's based on a (good) Stephen King book then the plot is deep and detailed. Kathy Bates is absolutely brilliant in this movie - and the rest of the cast is good too - but she is fantastic. It's a feminist movie in the sense that the story is about Delores (hard) life but I can highly recommend it to anyone.

How come it's an "18" certificate in the UK? This should be prescribed viewing to every 13 year old girl and boy.
2001-01-13
As a Woman
With the first scene and her strong image in Misery, I thought it's a kind of horrible or suspect movie. But it's fall short of my expectations. 3 women show up in this movie. Dolores, her daughter and her master. They have a common problem-violence from the men or from the society. Being a Woman ? Patience, Obedience, Tacit, Weakness and on is she limited to? Becoming a Witch might be better choice like this movie. The world have been changed a lot, Woman is not recognized as human but as opposition sex of man. I want to compliment Mothers on her being, itself . They make a beautiful world that had ruined by Man*s Power before. With Love.
1999-01-23
Sometimes being a bitch is all a woman has to hold onto.
A talented group of filmmakers take a particularly interesting Stephen King novel, one that basically amounts to one long monologue by the main character, and fleshes it out quite well, giving each of the main characters their own chance to shine. It's a long but heavily engrossing story of damaged people affected deeply by the past and living in a dreary present, and a story of the fractured relationship between a long estranged mother and daughter with differing memories of long ago events. Eventually truths are revealed and they are able to finally able to make some sort of attempt at coping.

Kathy Bates, who'd performed so superbly and memorably as the villainess in the previous King adaptation "Misery", here plays a more sympathetic person, the title woman who's had to put up with a lot of garbage during her life. In the present day she stands accused of murdering her longtime employer, Vera Donovan (Judy Parfitt). This brings Dolores's bitter daughter Selena (Jennifer Jason Leigh) home for the first time in a while. Selena still hasn't forgiven Dolores for the past, and a weary old detective bearing a grudge (Christopher Plummer) is determined that this time he will prove Dolores to be a killer.

Set on a fictional Maine island dubbed Little Tall Island, this was filmed in Canadas' province of Nova Scotia (which is close enough to Maine geographically), and there's plenty of atmosphere to be enjoyed in the presentation. The films' biggest visual hook is the way that director Taylor Hackford and director of photography Gabriel Beristain differentiate points in time, by having the '75 period be bright and sunny and well lit to having lots of overcast skies and a somber mood to permeate the '93 scenes.

The tale itself is one of Kings' best, and it receives respectful treatment from Hackford and screenwriter Tony Gilroy, who with the assistance of some very good actors create a rich gallery of personalities. Bates, Leigh, and Plummer are all wonderful; David Strathairn is very much slime personified as the worthless husband / father, Parfitt is a delight as the rich society type with more heart than she likes to reveal, Ellen Muth is touching as the teen aged version of Selena, and John C. Reilly is likable as well meaning constable Frank Stamshaw.

Everything is further enhanced by a haunting and emotional score composed by Danny Elfman and good visual effects; the climactic solar eclipse is well realized on film.

Those King fans disappointed with the quality of some of the films based on his work need only check out or revisit this resonant gem. Dolores is one of those great King characters whom you know you'll remember.

Eight out of 10.
2013-08-30
A Stephen King drama before he was really writing dramas.
It was so many years ago that I read Dolores Claiborne that I don't remember how closely the movie follows the book, but I've found that Stephen King movies in general are pretty faithful to the original material, and I'm sure that this one is no exception. Released at a time when a drama, even a dramatic thriller, coming from Stephen King would be known more for being a drama from the master of horror than anything else, Dolores Claiborne is still a surprisingly capable legal thriller with a remarkably intricate story.

Dolores Claiborne is an unskilled housewife living in Maine with her abusive husband and abused daughter, and things get progressively worse until she finds herself with an sexually abused daughter and a dead husband on her hands. The indictment for the murder of her husband doesn't stand in court, and years later she is again faced with the capital charge as the woman that she has been working for as a maid for so many years falls or is thrown down the stairs of her house to her death, and it's up to the town's Detective, played brilliantly by Christopher Plummer, to prove that it was not an accident. Oh no, not an accident at all. Detective Mackey (Plummer), let Dolores get away once and damned if that nonsense was going to happen again.

Unfortunately, Jennifer Jason Leigh, a genuinely gifted actor, is saddled with a part that forces her to play within the confines of a tortured soul, making her performance come off as forced and unconvincing, meanwhile Kathy Bates once again fills the screen with her powerful presence, delivering what has to be one of her best performances.

The story takes place in cold Maine weather that is so effective that it almost makes you want to put a jacket on, and in a house that is so gray and lifeless and empty that after watching the movie I had to go to the supermarket and buy a steak. That may not make sense, but here's something that does, the characters in this movie are so well rounded that it almost seems like a documentary. Definitely worth checking out, even if you're living so far in the past that you still rent from Hollywood Video and pay their late fees. Don't miss this one!
2005-11-03
Very successful film
Kathy Bates made quite an impact, so to speak, on the movie-going public with her bravura performance in another Stephen King adaptation, 'Misery.' But showy (and fun) as that role was, it wasn't really much of an acting part--the real heavy lifting in that film was done by James Caan in his quieter, subtler role as the object of Bates's affection.

In 'Dolores Claiborne,' Bates finally gets a King role fully worthy of her range and subtlety. She pulls off the age transformations beautifully--I actually wondered at times whether young Dolores or old Dolores was closer to her real age. She still gets to have fun with King's trademark Maine dialect ('Now you listen to me, Mr. Grand High Poobah of Uppah Buttcrack!' is a line that gets me every time), but she never goes too far, and her every gesture tells of her great loves for her daughter and her friend, without ever exaggerating or sentimentalizing them. It's a remarkable performance, and the actress is probably right to remember it as her best role.

The rest of the film into which the performance fits creaks a bit in places (the final melodramatic scene at the hearing is pretty hokey), and it's complicated somewhat by Jennifer Jason Leigh's performance, which may be *too* good--her Selena comes off as so angry and selfish that we don't particularly *want* her to reconcile with her mother. But overall, the film's an artistic success, done in a classic American style, and using the simple but effective device of changing the color scheme to ease us from the present to the past.

The supporting cast more than stands up to Bates, too. Judy Parfitt is all too believable as Vera Donovan, especially in her younger incarnation--those of us who grew up in tourist towns are very familiar with this kind of harpy queen who comes to town and sets up shop for good. But the part isn't a simple caricature--those tears of anger and pride that Vera cries for Dolores and her daughter feel very real indeed. Christopher Plummer, with his mushy red nose and schoolteacher's diction, overdoes it a bit, perhaps, but it basically goes with the character he's been given. And David Strathairn's Joe St. George surely deserves a high place in the canon of Stephen King movie villains. Strathairn makes him as bad as can be, and yet there's occasionally a playful touch that *almost* makes us see why Dolores married him in the first place.

In the end, a rather underrated film, successful on many levels. 8.5. out of 10.
2004-11-10
Expert story-telling+fine acting=good entertainment
I first saw "Dolores Claiborne" when it came out in 1995 and have seen it again some 3 or 4 times since, a practice I dedicate only to "certified" masterpieces. At first, I couldn't figure out why I kept revisiting "D.C." when it showed up on cable - it's not a cinematic wonder or a work of art (something it doesn't strive to be, by the way), not even a story that you can say it's really original. But as I became more familiar with the film, I could see why it always pulled me in: it's a triumph of story-telling, of the WAY and PACE the story is revealed in small precise doses much like slowly completing a puzzle, the kind of film you can only let go when the last missing piece (Selena's final flashback) fits into place.

How the story manages to make such initially repulsive characters (all of them!!) develop into sympathetic (or at least pathetic) ones is of course Stephen King's special talent, expertly translated by the fine jobs by the screenwriter, actors and director of "Dolores Claiborne". The cinematography is kind of obvious in its distinct color treatment of past and present, but the entire cast is inspired, including Kathy Bates' best-ever performance (she has stated so herself), especially in the flash-back scenes; delightfully virtuoso Judy Parfitt (you just keep hoping along for more Vera's scenes, and each one of them is a knockout); and reliable pros Christopher Plummer, David Strathairn (such an underrated actor!) and John C. Reilly. Even Jennifer Jason Leigh for once has her irritating mannerisms fit perfectly to build her terribly tormented character.

That's what good story-telling is all about: even if you already know the plot from A to Z, you just want to see once again the way it unfolds, like a good scary fairy tale. "Dolores Claiborne" is not without faults, but it's certainly worth your time, and even more than once.
2005-04-07
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