Dolores Claiborne (1995)

Sadly overlooked at the time of its release, this adaptation of Stephen King’s emotionally complex family drama is one of the best mainstream movies of the 1990s. Kathy Bates and Jennifer Jason Leigh both do some respective career-best work here as a dueling mother and daughter, each writhing in long-buried trauma that resurfaces when Bates is accused of murdering her elderly employer. Bates is another formidable, towering Kingsian figure here, but the real standout is Leigh, who tears into her role like a runaway freight train, and she’s riveting to watch from beginning to end. In addition, director Taylor Hackford does a masterful job of interweaving a number of competing storylines and flashbacks to provide context, which has the effect of letting the movie’s secrets slowly and carefully unfurl until the final act, keeping viewers on their toes throughout. With strong supporting performances from Judy Parfitt, Ellen Muth, Christopher Plummer and a menacing David Strathairn, this is a memorable, extraordinarily well-acted masterpiece that will hopefully find a new audience.

Rating: ★★★★ (out of 5)

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