Although most of the elements are familiar and virtually all of the characters are unpleasant, this is a better than average melodrama—mainly because of the volcanic power of Kathy Bates in the title role, but also because of some attractive cinematography by Gabriel Beristain and disciplined script work by Tony Gilroy in adapting a Stephen King novel. (William Goldman, credited as a consultant, likely lent a hand to the writing as well.) Centered on a remote island off the coast of Maine teeming with regional accents, the plot involves a bitter, hard-nosed maid (Bates) who's suspected of murdering her wealthy longtime employer. Her long-alienated daughter (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a neurotic and ambitious New York journalist, reluctantly turns up to help her out. The story is full of achronological flashbacks, delayed revelations, bitter recriminations, and long-term grudges, but Bates gives them all more flavor and substance than the conventions require, and the other cast members—including Christopher Plummer, David Strathairn, John C. Reilly, Eric Bogosian, and Judy Parfitt—do their best with relatively limited parts. Taylor Hackford directed, with a fair amount of panache.
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