Dolores Claiborne (Kathy Bates) was accused of killing her abusive husband twenty years ago, but the court's findings were inconclusive and she was allowed to walk free. Now she has been accused of killing her employer, Vera Donovan (Judy Parfitt), and this time there is a witness who can place her at the scene of the crime. Things look bad for Dolores, the memory of the first murder seemingly confirming her guilt in the second. But when her daughter Selena (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a successful Manhattan magazine writer, returns to cover the story, the truth about the family's past gradually comes to light.
Dark secrets, family torments and two murders swirl around the stoic, hardened figure of Dolores Claiborne (Kathy Bates in one of her most magnetic screen performances), a housekeeper accused of murdering her employer of 22 years. Then there was that timely accident that took Dolores's husband (David Strathairn) during the solar eclipse of 1975. Yet with all the sombre suffering that follows Dolores like a miasma of pain, none of it compares with the heartache of a relationship she has with her grown daughter (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Although Dolores Claiborne
is rife with horror, it is not of the supernatural kind, but rather of the torment only real people can impose on one another. The script, adapted from Stephen King's novel
, successfully weaves several plot threads and psychological dilemmas throughout this engrossing tale without diminishing any of them. Director Taylor Hackford not only culls intense performances from his cast, but also brings to life the haunting, autumnal landscape around them. When the film's best-kept secret is finally given up, it occurs under the surreal backdrop of a solar eclipse: a truly sensational piece of cinematography that crowns a movie replete with indelible images and intense emotions. --Rochelle O'Gorman
On the DVD: In Dolores Claiborne, the autumnal landscape of Nova Scotia is as much a principal character as any of the actors. As a result, the film is crucially dependent on the subtleties of the cinematographer's sense of time and place. The superb clarity of the widescreen DVD transfer only enhances the movie's steely cool atmosphere. Director Taylor Hackford gives a detailed and illuminating commentary--elucidating the cast's performance and explaining the careful photography of every scene. Though the commentary is the only extra feature, it adds more real value than most two disc sets can manage. --Mark Walker