I remember this film being around when I was younger, though I have no recollection of seeing it before. My father was a huge fan of Stephen King, something that I undoubtedly inherited from him, so he was always watching the movies and I remember talking highly of this film. Which makes sense since Dolores Claiborne is a great film that’s incredibly well acted. Though I can’t think of anything Kathy Bates has been in that she didn’t do a fantastic job and here is no different. Though this a bit off from what I normally view as horror. But Dolores Claiborne did leave me with lingering feelings of unease and the film does hold true to my definition of horror. Though here it’s more a family drama with horror being muted, but still present as this is a very dark story.
Dolores Claiborne opens with Dolores Claiborne (Kathy Bates), a domestic servant having an altercation with her elderly employer, Vera Donovan (Judy Parfitt) off-screen. Vera takes a fall down the stairs and lays there badly injured as Dolores ransacks the kitchen for a rolling pin. As she stands over Vera with the pin the mailman comes in and stops her from finishing off Vera, just for Vera to die anyway. Back in New York, Dolores’s estranged daughter Selena St. George (Jennifer Jason Leigh) a journalist receives a clipping from the local paper alerting her to what’s transpired with her mother. She returns to town to help defend her mother, though she doubtful that her mother is innocent after the mysterious death of her father twenty years prior. After the two women meet, the story of Vera’s death along with the death of Joe St. George (David Strathairn), Vera’s father unfold in a series of flashbacks. Dolores is being investigated by Detective John Mackey (Christopher Plummer), the same Detective the investigated Joe’s death and while unable to prove it has always believed that Dolores killed her husband. He’s aided in his investigation by Constable Frank Stamshaw (John C. Reilly).
I like the dark tone of film. Which is matched perfectly by Kathy Bates performance. I always love Kathy Bates and I have since I first saw Misery and the Stand, both of which she was in. Here her performance is both grounded and entertaining. She isn’t over the top crazy like in Misery, but is just as forceful and memorable.
I liked the switch of color during the flashbacks. The current events are all gray and washed out making the world look cold and less hospitable. While the flash backs a bright and green. As if they’re viewing the past through rose-colored glasses. That all the bits, even the ugly ones look better in hindsight.
Final thoughts, there isn’t much more I can say other than I liked it. Not what I was expecting, but a pleasant surprise all the same. All the actors deliver believable and solid performances. The pacing and tone are both pretty good as well, with the film never feeling slow or inconsistent. I would heavily recommend this film, though not if you’re looking for scares. But if you want a great story that leaves you feeling a little uneasy. This is a great film for that. 9/10