[Film Review] Dolores Claiborne (1995)

Dolores Claiborne poster

Title: Dolores Claiborne
Year: 1995
Country: USA
Language: English
Genre: Crime, Drama
Director: Taylor Hackford
Tony Gilroy
Stephen King
Music: Danny Elfman
Cinematography: Gabriel Beristain
Kathy Bates
Jennifer Jason Leigh
Judy Parfitt
Christopher Plummer
David Strathairn
John C. Reilly
Eric Bogosian
Ellen Muth
Bob Gunton
Wayne Robson
Roy Cooper
Rating: 8.1/10

Dolores Claiborne 1995

It all starts with Dolores (Bates) wields a rolling pin and tries to finish the life of Vera (Parfitt), a decrepit lady in wheelchair, so the first thing jumped into my mind is, is this MISERY (1990) part II, another Stephen King’s creepy thriller starring Kathy Bates?

Yes, the movie will blow you away, yet in a very divergent way, DOLORES CLAIBORNE is a majestically hatched harangue to the male-dominant society with a pungent tint of misandry, and miraculously, as a male audience, I am not repelled at all, because a trio of actresses thoroughly win me over with their powerhouse rendition, they all act like a bitch to survive in the inequitable world, the undertone oozes with bone-chilling malignity which as if we are reaping our own consequences to disparage the worth of womanhood.

Director Taylor Hackford (Mr. Helen Mirren) maximizes the juicy script (adapted by Tony Gilroy with superb grasp on verbal tit-for-tat) with contrast palettes (seamlessly segue between bleak present and balmy past) to channel us into two unsolved death cases. 15 years later, Selena (Leigh), a young reporter in New York, reluctantly revisits her mother Dolores in remote Maine, who is accused of murdering the aforementioned Vera, a rich widow and the longtime employer of Dolores, who works as a maid in her house for over 20 years. Local detective John Mackey (Plummer) keeps his suspicious eyes on Dolores and steps up offensively, while the friction between the mother-daughter pair exacerbates since there is an irreconcilable one-sided estrangement (Selena to Dolores) or even hatred standing between them.

Soon what really troubles all these people comes to light, it is many many years ago during an eclipse day, Dolores’ domestic abusive husband Joe (Strathairn, heinous, smug, but dangerously sexy) accidentally (or not?) fell to his death near their home, and Dolores gets away with it (and thus ruined Mackey’s perfect career record), but the truth is never that simple, the justification and motivation behind a premeditated murder is converted to a self-defensive protection, it is a familial harassment with a much dark and more reprehensible secret, but the repercussions haunt and torture the pair for so many years although the abuser has bitten the bullet ages ago.

Firstly Kathy Bates is robbed for an Oscar nomination say the very least, compellingly affectionate and decisively bold as a desperate mother who will do anything to offer a better prospect for her daughter, a selfless love which she asks no recompense, even though Selena completely cuts her out of her life, she is just contented to collect her newspaper articles and be as proud as a mother can be. Bates is simply a nonesuch to be a big-screen diva with her killing bearing fluctuating between a vulnerable housewife and redoubtable matron.

Jennifer Jason Leigh, the most under-appreciated actress among her coeval, strikes as an unthankful and wayward stuck-up hipster at first, but she slowly unwinds her wound with aching perseverance and she is pretty amazing too, we are all fully aware there must be a reason behind all the bickering and rebuffs, then we discover her deepest trauma which she wholly obliterates, it hits like a big bang, and she generates wonderful luster of compassion no lesser than Bates.

The biggest surprise is the lesser-known theater actress Judy Parfitt, a straight-up scene-stealer, plumb pivotal to the sinuous story-line, who registers unsettling incarnations during two different time frames, the younger Vera who is haughty and fastidious on the appearance, far-seeing and astute underneath; then the elder Vera, paralyzed and miserable, death is her only salvation and she wants to culminate it in her own way for the last time. Although the

She is my current win for BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS of 1995 while Leigh comes strong as the third. Last but not the least, Christopher Plummer never fail to attain the limelight with his incisive gaze and lucid utterance, even the character is not particularly interesting.

DOLORES CLAIBORNE radiates phenomenal visual potency by juxtaposing the eclipse marvel with the accentuated action set piece, only when the sun is blocked by the moon, as if it symbolizes, that’s the time the cold-blooded retribution can be consummated with heightened sentient venting! A truly remarkable movie and let’s not diminish the merit of the perfectly aligned score by Danny Elfman.

Oscar 1995 - Dolores Claiborne


One thought on “[Film Review] Dolores Claiborne (1995)

  1. Dear Isaac, I enjoyed your articulate and intelligent comment as usual. Being a sensitive person I really don’t know if I could endure the vision of this movie, which evidently focuses on neurosis and wickedness, yet I appreciate the analysis of the sentiments and the almost ineluctable necessity of the natural law of struggle and elimination of adversaries. I am quite interested in your hint of women attitude against men, this re-establishes the so called “gender equity” in a new perspective for me. No doubt there is a macho attitude in the world, but one should be careful about the possible insurgence of a similar attitude in women who can exercise power. Bravo as usual, your comments are really a source of thinking and an exercise of efforts to externalise what better is in us. And this is the real aim of the Arts.

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