Rated: R for obscenities and violence. Reviewed by: Chris Release date: March 24, 1995 Released by: Columbia Pictures
Two wonderful actresses give it their best in director Taylor Hackford's suspense drama, based on a Stephen King novel.
Kathy Bates plays the title role and Jennifer Jason Leigh plays her estranged daughter, Selena, who returns home when her mother gets into trouble.
Dolores is suspected of killing a rich invalid woman whom she had been caring for, for over 20 years. The woman fell down a flight of stairs and what would have ordinarily been thought of as an accidental death, takes on a more sinister meaning because of Dolores' presence. She was found standing over her employer's body with a heavy object in her hand, and 18 years earlier Dolores' abusive husband (David Strathairn) also died under a cloud of suspicion, so she is the prime suspect.
Detective Mackey, played by a dour and determined Christopher Plummer, investigated Dolores' husband's death, but couldn't come up with enough evidence to convict her. This time, he returns to the Maine island to make sure Dolores doesn't get away with murder a second time.
Flashbacks are used quite effectively as the story moves from past to present. It's done in an interesting way, in that each small look into the past unravels a bit of the mystery involving the deaths.
The story is complex and intriguing. It keeps you guessing at all times. But, the film's strong point is Kathy Bates. She's perfect as the acerbic, troubled Dolores. Hardened by years of abuse, she's learned to cope with the life she's been dealt. Bates is so good that it makes you wonder why she hasn't been in more films. Every emotion shows in her expressive face, and although she's a strong looking woman, you can see her vulnerability and feel her pain. She's just terrific. Leigh is also great. Nobody's better at portraying young distraught women. Together, they make a fascinating team.
Dolores Claiborne is one woman's story and it's well told and beautifully acted.