Dolores Claiborne (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Taylor Hackford|
|Produced by||Charles Mulvehill
|Screenplay by||Tony Gilroy|
|Based on||Dolores Claiborne
by Stephen King
Jennifer Jason Leigh
John C. Reilly
|Music by||Danny Elfman
|Edited by||Mark Warner|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
Dolores Claiborne (Bates) works as a domestic servant on a Maine island. The film opens with Dolores having a struggle with her elderly, paralyzed employer Vera Donovan (Judy Parfitt), after which Vera falls down the stairs. Dolores ransacks the kitchen and is then caught by a mailman as she stands over Vera with a rolling pin, apparently intending to kill Vera. Vera dies and the police begin an investigation, believing Dolores murdered Vera.
Dolores' daughter, Selena St. George (Leigh), a successful journalist battling depression and alcoholism, arrives in town to support her mother, despite her own doubts about Dolores' innocence. Dolores insists that she did not kill her wealthy employer, but finds almost no sympathy as the entire town believes she murdered her husband, Joe St. George (David Strathairn) almost 20 years earlier. Some of the town's inhabitants harass her by vandalizing her home, taunting her in the street, and driving by her house screaming at her. Detective John Mackey (Christopher Plummer), who was the chief detective in her husband's murder case, is determined to put Dolores away for life.
Selena also believes that Dolores killed her father, and so has not spoken to her mother in over a decade. As the film develops, it is revealed that Joe was an abusive alcoholic, and that one night Dolores had threatened to kill him if he ever harmed her again. Dolores went to work for Vera Donovan as a housemaid in order to raise enough money to pay for Selena's education, and had gone to the bank to withdraw her money so she and Selena could flee Joe's abuse. The plan backfired, however, when the bank notified Dolores that Joe stole the money from Selena's savings account.
Back in the present, Dolores says that Vera had thrown herself down the staircase and begged Dolores to put her out of her misery. Mackey refuses to believe her, and reveals that Vera has left her entire fortune to Dolores. Mackey informs them that the will is eight years old, which nearly convinces Selena that her mother is guilty.
Dolores finally decides that it is time to reveal the truth to Selena: She did in fact kill Joe, and it was actually Vera who suggested the plan to her. Dolores says that she had been pushed to the breaking point upon realizing that Joe had been molesting Selena, which Selena furiously denies both in the past and present. After a fierce argument Selena storms out, leaving her mother to fend for herself.
In a flashback to a scene some 20 years before, Vera engages in her regular ritual of berating Dolores, who breaks down crying and confesses her troubled home life. An unusually sympathetic Vera implies that she killed her late husband Jack, and engineered it to look like an accident. Vera's confession forms a bond between the two women and allows Dolores to take control of her own situation and future.
Still in the past, as a total solar eclipse approaches, Dolores and the young Selena have an argument about Dolores' suspicions regarding Joe's sexual abuse of Selena. Selena flees home for the weekend to work at a hotel to raise money from the high number of tourists coming to watch the eclipse. Joe soon returns from working on a fishing boat, and as a treat, Dolores has bought him a bottle of Scotch. After Joe gets drunk, Dolores reveals that she knows that he has stolen from Selena's account and molested his own daughter. Dolores provokes him into attacking her and falling down an old well, leaving him to die as he plunges to the stone bottom.
In the present again, Selena hears the story on a tape left for her by Dolores, who had foreseen her departure. While on the ferry, Selena suddenly uncovers a repressed memory of her father forcing her to give him a handjob. Realizing that her mother was telling the truth all along, Selena rushes back to Dolores as she is attending the coroner's inquest. Mackey makes a case to be sent to a grand jury in an attempt to indict Dolores for murder. Selena tells Mackey that he has no admissible evidence, and that despite an often-stormy relationship, Vera and Dolores loved each other. Realizing he has no case, Mackey reluctantly drops the charges.
The film ends with Dolores and Selena reconciling on the ferry wharf before Selena returns to New York.
- Kathy Bates as Dolores Claiborne
- Jennifer Jason Leigh as Selena St. George
- Judy Parfitt as Vera Donovan
- Christopher Plummer as Detective John Mackey
- David Strathairn as Joe St. George
- Eric Bogosian as Peter
- John C. Reilly as Constable Frank Stamshaw
- Ellen Muth as Young Selena
- Bob Gunton as Mr. Pease
- Roy Cooper as Magistrate
- Wayne Robson as Sammy Marchant
- Ruth Marshall as Secretary
- Weldon Allen as Bartender
- Tom Gallant as Searcher
- Kelly Burnett as Jack Donovan
Dolores Claiborne received mostly positive reviews from critics; it currently holds an 82% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 34 reviews with an average rating of 6.6. The film also has a rating of 62 on metacritic citing generally favorable reviews.
The movie debuted at number three for the week of March 26, 1995 with $5,721,920. It went on to make $24,361,867 domestically. It ranks as the 15th highest grossing film based on a Stephen King novel. It ranks as the 17th highest on the same list adjusted for inflation.
Kathy Bates and Jennifer Jason Leigh were nominated for the best actress and best supporting actress award at the 22nd Saturn awards. Ellen Muth also won the Tokyo International Film Festival Award for Best Supporting Actress
- Dolores Claiborne at the Internet Movie Database
- Dolores Claiborne at Rotten Tomatoes
- Dolores Claiborne at AllMovie