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DOLORES CLAIBORNE ($15) is an under-appreciated gem of a movie that is not to be missed on DVD. While DOLORES CLAIBORNE is based upon the Stephen King novel of the same name, screenwriter Tony Gilroy has taken some liberties with the story, making it highly cinematic. Director Taylor Hackford has done some of his best work stylistically with DOLORES CLAIBORNE, creating seamless flashbacks that allow the film’s parallel stories to flow effortlessly back and forth without jarring the viewer.

Kathy Bates gives another Oscar caliber performance as the title character in DOLORES CLAIBORNE. As the film opens, Dolores finds herself the chief suspect in the murder of Vera Donovan (Judy Parfitt), the woman for whom Dolores worked as a housekeeper. DOLORES CLAIBORNE also stars Jennifer Jason Leigh as Dolores’ estranged daughter Selena St. George, who reluctantly returns home to aid her mother in her time of need. Christopher Plummer portrays John Mackey; the big city homicide detective brought in to investigate Vera's death. As the audience quickly learns, the paths of Dolores and Detective Mackey crossed eighteen years earlier after the death of Dolores’ husband Joe St. George (David Strathairn). Even though Mackey suspected Dolores in her husband’s death, he could never prove it.

Now with the death of Vera Donovan, Mackey is desperate t prove Dolores’ guilt and close the only unresolved case of his career. For the performances alone, I have to enthusiastically recommend DOLORES CLAIBORNE. As I stated above, Kathy Bates delivers a powerhouse performance that should have garnered her a second Academy Award. Jennifer Jason Leigh does outstanding work as the troubled Selena and Christopher Plummer does his usual impressive job as the obsessed detective hoping to finally clear the slate. Additionally, the fine supporting performances from Judy Parfitt and David Strathairn also leave a lasting impression. The cast of DOLORES CLAIBORNE also includes John C. Reilly, Ellen Muth, Bob Gunton and Eric Bogosian.

Warner Home Video has done an excellent job of transcribing DOLORES CLAIBORNE to DVD. The film is offered in a superb 16:9 enhanced wide screen transfer that restores the film’s 2.35:1 theatrical framing and shows off Gabriel Beristain’s marvelous cinematography. Stylistically, the different eras are represented with two totally different color schemes that the DVD reproduces spectacularly. The cold blue desaturated hues reproduce as well as the intense warm reds and yellows. Even though the saturation is excellent during the warmer sequences, there are no traces of chroma noise anywhere on this DVD. The transfer itself offers superb detail and clarity, even within the dark shadows of the image. Blacks are faithfully rendered and contrast is wonderfully smooth. Excellent DVD authoring conceals all traces of digital compression artifacts.

The Dolby Digital 2.0 channel soundtrack decodes to standard surround with very pleasing results. Dialogue is cleanly reproduced and well focussed within the center channel. There are a few well-placed sound effects, however the track tends to be atmospheric and engrossing instead of flashy and distracting. The surround channels provide ambience, as well as filling out the soundstage. Danny Elfman’s moody score is also effectively integrated into the mix. A French language soundtrack has also been included on the DVD. Subtitles are provided on the DVD in English and French.

The interactive menus contain some full motion video and music, but aren’t overly elaborate. Through the menus one can access the standard set up and scene selection features. The menus also provide access to the disc’s supplements, which include production notes on the film’s recreation of a total solar eclipse, cast biographies/filmographies and a running audio commentary with director Taylor Hackford. Fans will find Hackford’s talk well worth listening to because it is very interesting and filled with detail about this highly underrated film.


Dolores Claiborne (1995)


DVD reviews are Copyright 1999 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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