Claire Dolan (1998)

“I don’t normally speak about my feelings.”

Claire Dolan (Katrin Cartlidge) is a high-priced prostitute living in New York. Originally from Ireland, she’s accrued a debt to Roland (Colm Meaney)–a man who’s known her since she was a child. Following her mother’s death, Claire breaks away from New York and Roland, and tries to make a new life for herself in New Jersey. Here she meets taxi driver Elton Garrett (Vincent D’Onofrio).

After seeing Katrin Cartlidge’s amazing performance in Naked, I really wanted to see her in Claire Dolan,but I found the film rather disappointing. It’s not an easy thing to portray the life of a prostitute on film.There’s the extreme example of Pretty Woman–a immensely silly film in which the realities of prostitution are glossed over in exchange for giggly, romantic fun, or the ugly side of prostitution–and this is the category Claire Dolan falls into. Claire’s life is presented with grim detail. There are sex scenes galore while dialogue remains at a minimum. Claire is emotionally dead, and after watching a few of her appointments with various ‘clients’ we understand why. Mauled and slobbered on, she maintains a frozen wall that appears to be unassailable. One of the problems with the film, however, is that Claire’s wooden behaviour never slips–and I, for one, found the idea of Claire charging between 500-1,000 dollars for an hour of her dour, dead company … well … a bit preposterous.

Colm Meaney as Roland portrays a chilling baddie. He hides his ruthlessness with a joviality that doesn’t deceive for long. The very best scene in the film occurs when Claire goes to meet a client who appears to sympathize, and just as she’s about to let her guard down, it becomes obvious that this is all part of his titillating preamble prior to sealing their transaction. While it’s impossible to harbour any illusions about Claire’s life, we are left with nothing in exchange, and consequently Claire Dolan from director Lodge Kerrigan is a relentlessly bleak film full of characters we care little about.

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