25 May 2005 | philip_vanderveken
Don't be mistaken by the seemingly ordinary story
If there is one thing I always fear, than it must be movies about bad marriages, an abusive husband, child abuse ... How often do you get a good movie with such subjects. Not very often, because most of the time these are awful TV-movies that seem to be written at a rate of at least one an hour. Always following the same concept, always trying to make the poor viewer cry his eyes out while saying that that poor woman / child didn't deserve to be treated that bad. Now don't get me wrong, I'm certainly not saying that it should be tolerated. Men who do such awful things can't be punished hard enough, but the movies that are made about this subjects are complete crap most of the time.
"Dolores Claiborne" tells the story of a woman who is accused of murdering the wealthy woman she worked for as a maid in Maine. When her daughter Selena finds out that her mother is accused of this crime, she immediately returns home from New York, leaving her job as an important reporter behind for a while. But she doesn't return to support her mother as you might expect. No, she's almost certain that she did it and she seems to try to get a good story out of it. But gradually she finds out what really happened and in the meantime some awful things about Selena's troubled childhood, the awful family life,... come floating at the surface again.
I know that I said in the beginning of this review that most movies with such a subject are plain crap, but there are always expectations to every rule and "Dolores Claiborne" certainly is one of those exceptions. It was written by Stephen King and it shows. The man knows how to build up suspense and certainly can give you an uneasy feeling while reading his books or watching one of 'his' movies. And "Dolores Claiborne" has a lot more depth than you might expect at first. The only thing is that they have managed to disguise it, not giving away too much information at a time. Only at the end of the movie you'll fully understand what has happened and what the reason was for both women to react the way they did.
What I also liked, next to the story, was the way everything is shot. All the scenes in the present are shot in those cool blue tones, but these blend seamlessly into the flashbacks that were shot in vivid colors. This gives an extra touch to the story that certainly works. You know exactly what is the present and what is the past, but those colors also add a lot to the drama.
But the way a movie was shot alone doesn't make it good of course. That's what good actors who do some excellent things are for. And that's also exactly what you'll get from Kathy Bates, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Christopher Plummer... Jennifer Jason Leigh is nice as the daughter, but it's Kathy Bates and Christopher Plummer who give away the best performances in my opinion. Bates is stunning as the tormented woman who's personality seems so strong, while in reality she is a broken soul who wishes for nothing much but to die as soon as possible, so all her misery can end. And I also loved Plummer as Detective John Mackey who's hate against Dolores is so big, because she is the only spot on an almost spotless career. He has solved all his cases except for one and he'll not rest until he can send Dolores to jail.
All in all this is a very good and suspenseful movie that never tries to become a tearjerker, despite the heavy subject. It offers some great acting, nice photography and a good story. That's about all I can wish for in a movie and I give it at least a 7.5/10, maybe even an 8/10.