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Dolores Claiborne

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4

*Also starring: Christopher Plummer, David Strathairn, Judy Parfitt, John C. Reilly, Eric Bogosian, Ellen Muth, Bob Gunton

Review by Dragan Antulov
2 stars out of 4

Great works of literature seldom produce a good material for films, and the career of Stephen King is living proof for that. However, some transitions between the written word and silver screen image are better than other and, again, Stephen King is a nice example for that phenomenon. Interestingly enough, among dozens of novels and short stories adapted for films and televisions usually those not belonging to his favourite genre of horror proved to be good source for films. One of such examples is DOLORES CLAIBORNE, 1995 drama directed by Taylor Hackford.

The plot is set on the small island off the coast of Maine and begins when one of her residents, feisty old housekeeper Dolores Claiborne St. George (played by Kathy Bates) becomes target of criminal investigation, following the suspicious death of her long-time employer, bed-ridden wealthy old widow Vera Donovan (played by Judy Parfitt). To make things worse for Dolores, the investigation is led by Detective John Mackey (played by Christopher Plummer), mainland policeman who had been investigating her twenty years before after equally suspicious death of her husband. Everyone is convinced that Dolores killed the old woman, and that might include even her daughter Selena (played by Jennifer Jason Lee), successful journalist who comes from New York following anonymous tip. When two women finally meet, the issue of Dolores' guilt or innocence is going to be settled together with painful memories and ghosts of the past that haunts their lives.

Taylor Hackford and his scriptwriter Tony Gilroy are among those rare filmmakers that managed to successfully tackle with King's fiction. Dark, menacing atmosphere of King's home state of Maine - the perfect setting for the unpleasant and often depressive subjects of family abuse that this film tackles - is brought here due to the clever use of Gabriel Beristain's photography and Canadian coastal locations. Hackford also manages to give depth to the characters by using flashbacks and non- linear story structure. The actors are doing wonderful job - Kathy Bates is excellent in her complex role, as well as Jennifer Jason Lee, as well as Christopher Plummer as near-psychopathic detective. The most impressive work was, however, done by David Strathairn in the role of Dolores' mean husband. All that would guarantee a very good film, but in the last segments Hackford seems to lose pace and David Elfman's musical score becomes somewhat too irritating. And, same as with many Hollywood films that had great potential, ending is formulaic and represents a disappointment. However, despite that, and despite the fact that depressive viewers might do themselves a favour if they watch something else, DOLORES CLAIBORNE is a good film not only compared to the majority of King's screen adaptations.

Copyright 2001 Dragan Antulov

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