Delores Claiborne (1995) – Film Review

Delores Claiborne (1995)

Based on the Novel of the same name by Stephen King

Dolores Claiborne works as a housekeeper, and eventually live-in caretaker, and reluctant companion for a demanding, elderly and very wealthy woman named Vera Donovan. When Dolores is found standing over Vera’s body, heavy rolling pin raised(!) and the house in disarray she becomes the prime suspect in Vera’s murder.

When she hears about Vera’s death and that her mother is suspected, Dolores’ estranged daughter Selena returns from New York, where she works as a successful reporter.

In the Stephen King novel, the story is presented as a transcript of Dolores’ statement to the police. In the film the story unfolds through flashbacks, a device that can be irritating, but is skilfully handled by director Taylor Hackford. The age transitions are convincing (sometimes those can be super distracting!) and the use of cool blue tones for the past and vivid colour for the present blends the scenes together seamlessly.

Katy Bates is excellent as the steely, unreadable Delores. She said in an interview in 2015 that her performance as Dolores was her favourite performance she had ever given. Jennifer Jason-Leigh plays the angry, cynical Selena sympathetically where she could have just been brittle and unlikable. Although Vera, played by Judy Parfitt only appears in a few scenes (I would have loved to have seen a bit more of her) she is excellent – feisty, sympathetic and grotesque in turn.

The Delores Claiborne film adaptation is often considered an underrated classic (of King adaptations anyway), much more of a psychological thriller than straight out horror. And sure, it verges on the melodramatic at times. But if you are looking for some good storytelling, and interesting, complex characters it is well worth a shot.

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