Set on a depressed and perpetually wet island off the coast of Maine, Dolores Claiborne (Bates) is the focus of the film. Looming in her past is a secret: she may or may not have killed her abusive husband (played in flashbacks by David Strathairn). In the present, Dolores has apparently been driven to madness by her husband and her employer Vera, the elderly woman for whom Dolores nursemaids. At the film's opening, we are presented with what appears to be Vera's death by Dolores's weathered hands.
This all sets the tone for the ensuing investigation, in which Christopher Plummer plays the investigator "thwarted" by Dolores during his investigation of her husband's death 18 years earlier. Selena (Leigh), Dolores's similarly insane daughter shows up to help out in the crisis.
What follows is pretty much predictable. After a promising start, the film begins to rely on way-over-the-top acting, culminating in the worst courtroom scene in years, to get its point across (basically: abuse is bad). Clocking in at well over two hours, Dolores Claiborne is far too long for the audience to stare at the same dull grey sky and dead landscapes, while its stars deadpan for the camera.
Thematically simplistic, Dolores Claiborne is a mildly interesting story with some memorable characters. It's not what we've come to expect from King, and it is a step in the right direction, away from the author's customary schlock horror. But with another King story playing in theaters now as well (The Mangler), it doesn't look like he's changed his evil ways.
Run time: 132 mins
In Theaters: Friday 24th March 1995
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Production compaines: Columbia Pictures Corporation, Castle Rock Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
Fresh: 27 Rotten: 6
IMDB: 7.4 / 10
Director: Taylor Hackford
Screenwriter: Tony Gilroy
Starring: Kathy Bates as Dolores Claiborne, Jennifer Jason Leigh as Selena St. George, Judy Parfitt as Vera Donovan, Christopher Plummer as John Mackey, John C. Reilly as Const. Frank Stamshaw, David Strathairn as Joe St. George, Eric Bogosian as Peter, Ellen Muth as Young Selena, Bob Gunton as Mr. Pease