Dolores Claiborne (1995)

Since Brian DePalma first dumped a bucket of blood on Sissy Spacek
almost 20 years ago, filmmakers have been scrambling to adapt Stephen
King. Thirty-five times they've tried, and thirty-five times (by my
count) they come up with only four words to describe their results:
"very good" or "very bad."

No middle ground has ever existed for the bestselling author, who, in
some circles, remains misunderstood because of those "very bad" ones.
(He even directed one of them.  MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE.  Shudder.)

DOLORES CLAIBORNE, thank goodness, is one of the "good" Stephen King
films.  The murder mystery-- about a feisty New England woman (Kathy
Bates) facing her second accusation of murder-- is also a fitting
companion piece to last year's THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION.  There's even a
script reference to the fictional prison.

Director Taylor Hackford and writer Tony Gilroy have expanded the
bestseller.  They've both jettisoned the first-person narrative, and
introduced an adult daughter (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who doesn't appear
in the novel.  Purists may scoff, but the changes work.  The result is
a dark feminist fantasy-- one that works better as a showcase for the
actors than as a statement of its politics.

Kathy Bates is no stranger to misery.  She's a delight as the harried
heroine who may have just pushed her employer-- that wealthy invalid
witch-- right down the stairs.  Dolores is just as colorful as described
in the novel, even if the script omits some of her better

Jennifer Jason Leigh, who is less fun, spends the entire movie moping as
Dolores' estranged daughter Selena.  The young actress broods better
than any actress her age, though she could stand to lay off the
cigarettes for a film or two.  Who would've thought she'd still have her

The role of Dolores' late, abusive husband goes to David Strathairn.  He
plays it pretty broad.  More appealing is Christopher Plummer who hams
it up as the local detective.  Watch for bit parts from Eric Bogosian
(!) and Bob Gunton.  The latter starred in SHAWSHANK.

Told with a number of flashbacks, the narrative of DOLORES CLAIBORNE is
very easy to follow.  The photography (by Gabriel Beristain) is great,
the direction is smart, and the dialogue is crisp.  If the ending's too
tidy, it's no big deal.  The source material still shines through.

BOTTOM LINE:  One of the "good" Stephen King films, Mr. Man!

Grade: B+

Copyright 1995 Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

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