In Dolores Claiborne, Kathy Bates plays the title role, another of King’s smothering caregivers who may be a killer — or a victim. There’s nothing supernatural here but plenty of ominous chills — from David Strathairn (as Dolores’ predatory husband), from Judy Parfitt (as the bitter old woman she works for), from Christopher Plummer (as the Javert-like inspector who pursues Dolores), and from a lunar eclipse, during which all rules of civilized behavior seem to be suspended.
Not to mention from Dolores herself, played by Bates as an ornery, weather-beaten wife and mother who no longer cares if she lives or dies. Jennifer Jason Leigh is the viewer’s guide through the story’s mysteries as an investigative reporter who is also Dolores’ estranged daughter and carries with her a lifetime of sullen resentment and psychological scars.
Director Taylor Hackford comes up with a seamless way of managing the movie’s frequent jumps back and forth in time; in the film’s visual language, the past always seems to be lurking just off-screen, looking over the shoulder of the present. But the film really belongs to Bates. It’s her show, even more than Misery, and she deserved more recognition for it than she received.
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