Monday, March 14, 2005

Dolores Claiborne

One of the reasons I was grumpy today was not enough sleep; I stayed up till 2-ish watching, for the umpteenth time, Dolores Claiborne. Maybe I am just a bourgeois housewife, but I find the real-world Stephen King stories much more compelling than his horror fantasies, at least when transferred to the big screen (except for Carrie, that was totally creepy.) I really like The Shawshank Redemption, too. These stories are so well-set in time and place, and the characters are complex and real. And since we're watching the stories on-screen and not reading about them, we're spared King's habits of overloading on pop culture details and gratuitous product placements. Stephen King: a great, imaginative writer long in need of a great, steel-spined editor. But I digress.

I hadn't seen Dolores Claiborne in a long time, but I was reminded of it when I was watching the TiVO'd "100 Scariest Moments of All Time" special that DH had recorded. Kathy Bates in Misery was somewhere in the Top 10, I'm not sure where -- but seeing her made me think of poor Dolores. Bates's performances in both films were fantastic, but now I haven't seen her in ages! Where is she?

So, the movie: unrelentingly depressing, gray, oppressive. Until the very end, where this is some hope of a brighter future. Yay! There are really only two characters in this movie: Dolores, and her daughter Selena. Selena has repressed memories, and I wonder about how other people react to that particular plot line. My reaction: Yes, that's exactly what it's like!

They got it exactly right, as far as I'm concerned. My repressed memory had nothing to do with my parents or child abuse, in fact The Repressed Event happened when I was in my 20s, and it did not, in fact, stay repressed for very long, comparatively speaking -- 6 years, maybe? And it wasn't deeply repressed, either, but The Event was certainly missing when I'd look back over the significant events in my life, even looking back over the things that happened when my first marriage was falling apart. It's not that I had simply forgotten it, either -- it was gone. I didn't remember "something happened, I don't know what," I didn't even remember anything happening at all! Until, of course, I did remember.

In my case, the trigger was a simple question, What started all this? but asked in a specific time and place, by a specific person... the key that unlocked the memory. You could've knocked me over when I remembered what had really happened. I had one of those, "I have to sit down," moments. How odd! This kind of thing only happens in movies and on made-for-TV specials, right?

No, I guess not. No, because it did happen to me.

So there is one aspect of my identification with this movie: I had a lot in common with Selena. But there is another aspect, and that is my commonality with Dolores, who escaped (by horrible means) a horrible, oppressive marriage. I did that, too. My ex-husband, neither a drunk nor a child-molester, is happily running the tax department of a major Boston law firm these days, so don't go thinking I've pushed anyone down an abandoned well or anything like that. Not every horrible thing involves violence or law-breaking, right? I saw a way out, I took it, but it was a tortured road.

Every day I am grateful that I followed it to the end -- escape! Sometimes I wonder, How did I manage that? How could someone as beat down as I was, get up and walk away? I had help, so much help; I'm thankful for that, too. There are people who will always have a little piece of my heart, because of what they gave to me, what they helped me take back for myself.

So much time, frittered years lost. Then I think of Dolores and Selena, suffering for nearly 20 years before they could come to any peace. I think, that could've been me.

But it's not, and it never will be. Such a powerful reminder, Dolores Claiborne.

1 comment:

deomail said...

I know it has been 3 years since this was released but believe me when I say I understand your feelings completely. Please write me if you want to.