When you think of Stephen King’s film catalogue, you’d be hard pressed not to be haunted by images of vicious clowns, rabid dogs or sharp-fanged vampires. However, some of his best adaptations are those that deal with the most frightening monster of all- mankind.
One such film, Dolores Claiborne, which premiered this past week twenty-two years ago. Based on the book by the same name, the film was directed by Taylor Hackford (who also helmed Ray and An Officer and a Gentleman) and starred the incomparable Kathy Bates as the title character. I have a rule when it comes to cinematic viewing- if Kathy Bates is in it, I know I’ll like it. This film does not challenge that rule.
Dolores Claiborne is a caregiver accused of murdering her elderly patient, seemingly on the fast track to a death sentence. Her estranged daughter, Selena (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh) is a well-to-do New York journalist who returns to her hometown to support her mother. Selena has her own demons, including alcoholism and repressed memories of a horrific childhood. Dolores doesn’t get any sort of benefit of the doubt from the townsfolk, as most believe she was the one who killed her husband several years earlier.
A tale of abuse, alcoholism and broken family bonds, Dolores Claiborne is a stirring and uncomfortable film at times with fantastic performances from Bates and Leigh, who gives a particularly underrated performance. Bates has gone on to say that this is her favorite role she’s ever done and the film itself is widely considered to be one of the best Stephen King adaptations.
This isn’t a feel-good film and there are a few moments that are both cringe-worthy and heartbreaking, but it’s a damn good film from the King of Horror and if you haven’t seen it yet, there’s no better day to see it than on its theatrical release anniversary.