Saturday, January 8, 2011
When people think of Stephen King, they automatically conjure up his best-selling horror novels, while some may think of the uplifting Shawshank Redemption or the subtly magical The Green Mile. Although quite a few of King's works have not made a positive transition from page to screen, the ones that work are the ones that people can relate to in one way or another, in this case, it is the gritty and underappreciated Dolores Claiborne.
Bates (as always) is amazing
Directed by Taylor Hackford and boasting talent such as Kathy Bates, Jennifer Jason Leigh and David Strathairn, this film doesn't deal with the supernatural whatsoever or even a slight of hand. No, this movie investigates the issue of domestic violence, a problem that has unfortunately been plaguing lives around the world for God knows how long. Additionally, it deals with the notion that while mothers can be loving and warm people, they can also be as fierce as beasts and the lengths they will go to when it comes to the protection of their children.
While this film is decidedly low key in many respects, when scenes of a man beating up on his wife come on screen, they hit you hard and they stay with you throughout the movie, add to that the grainy look of the film- very few clear skies, frosty air and a distinct sense of depression that saturates every scene- it seems as if the environment has only compounded the sense of desolation Dolores Claiborne feels every day.
Now some of you may be thinking that just because there are no scary creatures and excessive blood and guts in this movie, that doesn't make it scary- how wrong you are. You see, no matter how outrageous King's work may be when it comes to dealing with the metanatural, all of his books center around the characters rather than simply the circumstances. One could say that what truly makes King's works memorable are not the monsters in the closet, but the people whose house has the monsters in the closet. King invests a lot within his characters and in Dolores Claiborne's case, it shows.
It goes without saying that Kathy Bates as Dolores once again proves why she is an actress to be reckoned when it comes to playing such a layered character with many dark secrets who wants to be heard. Her Dolores may seem like a passive punching bag at first glance, but as you follow her story, you realise that she is mother grizzly bear (sorry for the Palinism) who has nothing to lose, and that, my friends, is more than a woman, but a force a nature.
The mother and her cub
While this film came out way back in 1995, and while it shows flashbacks that dates back to the 60's the present timeline seems indeterminate, I feel that this factor works for the idea that no matter what the timeframe, humans almost never change and in a movie that investigates subject matter as hard hitting as familial abuse, it stays with you.
I also find that this film is quite faithful to King's prose which is another thing that works in the film's favour- when you deviate from a work that you are trying to translate to an audience, you are in danger of losing the essential parts of what makes the story true. Naturally not all the characters are PRECISELY as King wrote them, but the actors ensure that they make up for what their characters don't have by adding their of flavour to the roles, especially Judy Parfitt in her role as Dolores's employer.
While it is certainly not my place to dictate what type of movies you as the viewer should watch, do give this one an honorable try- it will not be to everybody's taste, but I feel that nobody will feel this film is absurd beyond comprehension because of the fact it is about humans and how frightening they can be as opposed to run of the mill serial killers wearing hockey masks hacking into screaming virgins (thanks Peter Vincent for that one :-P).
So, will you sit down and listen to Dolores's story?