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If you have read any of the other reviews on this page, you have probably
figured out "The Hours" is not the easy, mainstream film it was made out
be by the ads and the reviews. Starring three of today's most popular
leading actresses, winner of some Golden Globe awards, based on a Pulitzer
Prize winning novel, and the recipient of numerous rave reviews; it would
seem to be a film that would appeal to a lot of people.
"The Hours" is not a regular Hollywood type of drama film. It has more in common with Ingmar Bergman films than with "Terms of Endearment." I think the thing that most people are having problems with is that the film does not explain what takes place or the significance of the context of what takes place. Things happen and it is up to the viewer to decide what it means. This is a controversial film and people will not only argue about whether or not the film is worthwhile, but they can also debate what exactly takes place during the film. How a person interprets this film says more about the person than the film.
The film follows a single day in the lives of three women in different time periods. During this day, each of them makes a decision that will affect the rest of their life.
I felt the film improved upon the book by bringing more clarity into the decisions of each character. Also, some of the most memorable lines and scenes in the film did not exist in the book.
While I would normally be the last person in the world to say anything positive about Phillip Glass, his score is evocative of the relentlessness of time. This is accentuated by the ticking of the clock throughout the film. The ethereal music also helps tie the three storylines together, to make it seem as if they are happening simultaneously.
I think a lot of people were taken off-guard by this film because they were expecting a more standard type of drama. Also, the PG-13 rating implies a lighter subject matter than is actually in the film. Just as a warning: There is crying, suicide, and women kissing women. Even though the violence and language is mild and there are no sex or nudity in the film, it should have probably been given an R rating because of the extreme emotion displayed in the film. Emotionally unstable people should probably not see this film.
As I said earlier, people will interpret this film differently since things are not spelled out for them. For the record, I did not think all three women were suffering from clinical depression as suggested by some people. Virginia's malaise would seem to fit the description of schizophrenia rather than clinical depression. Clarissa was suffering from regret over a decision she made thirty years previous and the feeling that she will never experience that happiness again. That does not necessarily mean she is clinically depressed. Laura is the depressed one and she makes a decision to handle that depression the way she thinks is best for her. Also, I do not feel Virginia was either incestuous or a lesbian. I think she was expressing her desperation through her disease and it came out in a socially unacceptable manner.
There is no doubt in my mind that "The Hours" is a great film. I only recommend it to people who are up to the challenge of thinking about the film long after they have left the theater and deciding about what it means. It is not a film for everybody but I felt it was worth the effort.
"The Hours" more than lives up to its critical praise. If nothing else
it is a must see for the originality of the technique. The film (and
the book by Michael Cunningham) is structured around the process of
linking up three stories set at different points in time. Each story
concerns a woman trying to define herself, to identify what she needs,
and to find a way to get it.
The 1920's story concerns Virginia Woolf's (Kidman) efforts to write her first successful novel, "Mrs. Dallaway"; which is the story of one day in the life of a woman named Clarissa Dallaway. The story set in the early 1950's concerns Laura Brown (Moore), a woman who is reading "Mrs. Dallaway". Finally the contemporary story concerns Clarissa Vaughn (Streep) who is essentially living Mrs. Dallaway's life in modern NYC. All three performances are extraordinary in their own unique ways and there are wonderful performances from all members of the supporting cast. It is as if each member of the ensemble brought out the best in each other.
Some interesting and not always obvious things to look for as you watch "The Hours" are:
Each story begins with the husband/lover of each woman leading the camera to the woman. All three women are found in bed and this begins a match cut process that will repeat itself throughout the film as the director and editor work to connect and unify the three separate stories. Woolf writes: "Mrs. Dallaway said she would buy the flowers herself" just as Laura Brown reads that sentence and Clarissa speaks that sentence.
Kidman's Woolf is an amazing character. She is a psychological mess, making life difficult for those around her and full of torment and despair. Yet she has a subtle charm that helps you to understand why people found her fascinating.
Like "The Big Chill", this is an ambitious character study film with many characters. By necessity, both films rely more on behavioral language than dialogue in revealing the personality of its characters. Note Laura Brown's (Moore) neatness obsession as she readies her house and herself prior to leaving for the hotel.
Woolf began the book "Mrs. Dallaway" with the intention of basing it on a society woman she knew who unexpectedly committed suicide. Brown describes the book to her neighbor as: "Oh, it's about this woman who's incredibly - well, she's a hostess and she's incredibly confident and she's going to give a party. And, maybe because she's confident, everyone thinks she's fine... but she isn't".
At its core this is a movie about art but it is a broad definition of art, writing a book-baking a cake-giving a party. Each woman/artist is driven and frustrated by a need for unattainable perfection. There is a touch of irony to each situation. For example, Laura Brown is where she is because her husband has pulled her into the great American dream without realizing that it was the worse thing he could do to her. Although all three women love their children/child/niece, those relationships do not give them what they need.
There is a visitor and a kiss in each story central to the self-definition process each woman is going through. Virginia kisses her sister Vanessa (brilliantly played by Miranda Richardson who looks amazingly like she could have been Kidman's sister), desperately trying to force a better connection with her. Vanessa understands this, she is not shocked by the kiss but by the implication that her sister needs this so desperately.
Sophie Wyburd who plays Virginia's young niece was obviously cast for her haunting voice and her ability to display such a focused intensity. Each woman has a child picking up on their needs, which the adults around them do not seem to be aware of.
Watch the scene where Laura's husband is urging her to come to bed. Moore's voice does not betray the revulsion or the internal struggle which only viewers can see on her face. In fact at this point each woman's partner is urging her to go to bed but each must first a make choice. Then watch for the great match cut, Virginia announces that she has decided that the poet will die in her novel and they cut to little Richard lying in his bed. Moore's expression finally tells us that she has decided to leave her family. Streep's kiss signifies her recognition of the preciousness of what she still has in her life and her choice to embrace it and move forward.
Ultimately this film is about the increasing difficulty we have as we get older in making choices. This is because as we discover who we are, we also experience loss and accumulate grief over the course of our lives, making us ever more aware of the cost of our choices. Like the Moonlight Graham character in "Field of Dreams" (who assumed he would have more than one major league at bat), Clarissa looks back on a short moment that she thought was the beginning of happiness and realizes that it was her only moment of actual happiness.
There are some criticisms of this film. That it is not political enough but rather is for the elite and about the elite, or conversely that it is condescending to the masses with too obvious a message told in an unnecessarily simplistic way, and finally that it is a success of structure rather than ideas. Whatever the validity of these issues, the very fact that discussions are at this elevated level is the best testimonial the film could have. My only criticism was a production design issue, young Richard gets his Lincoln logs out of a Erector Set box.
The first thing that may strike you about `The Hours' is that this film
features more major characters who are gay, or at least bisexual, than any
mainstream movie I can think of. Based on the novel by Michael
this is the powerful story of three women from three different time
who have one thing in common: they are all leading lives filled with
depression, despondency and despair, not because they are gay, mind you,
because they are human.
First there is the famous early 20th Century author Virginia Woolf (played by Nicole Kidman), who is doing daily battle with her own mental illness, a disease that is slowly destroying her own life and the lives of those around her. The story picks up her life at the time right after she has been released from an institution and been sent to spend a quiet, uneventful and restful time convalescing in the country with her husband. It is here that she begins writing her famous novel `Mrs. Dalloway,' an introspective tale of a woman who comes to realize that her well-ordered life is really just a collection of meaningless routines meaninglessly performed. This novel serves as the glue that binds together the three women of the story as they, too, come to see their own lives in this way. Julianne Moore is Laura Brown, a housewife living in the 1950's, who finds her domestic existence to be as much a prison as Virginia Woolf finds her life in the secluded countryside. Despite the fact that she has a husband and a child who clearly adore her, Laura struggles with the fact that she is unable to find the fulfillment she seeks out of life in the role of wife and mother which society has decreed for her. This leads her to a feeling of perpetual ennui and depression and even to the notion of ending it all through suicide (suicide is, in fact one of the major motifs of the work). This role provides an interesting counterpoint to Moore's character in `Far From Heaven.' In both films she is a woman attempting to cope with the stifling nature of life for a typical housewife in the 1950's, yet in the other film, SHE is the one devastated to discover that her husband is a closet homosexual, while, in this film, she herself is the one harboring secret lesbian feelings. This, of course, strengthens the parallels with Virginia Woolf, since she too had love affairs with women. The third character is a contemporary woman played by Meryl Streep. Like the fictional character Mrs. Dalloway, Clarissa Vaughn is a woman whose life appears to others to be well ordered and fulfilling, yet she realizes that it is really a life built around meaningless triviality. Clarissa has a lesbian partner of ten years, yet the spark of love between them seems to have gone out. Clarissa spends most of her time regretting the loss of her one true love, the troubled poet, Richard Brown (Ed Harris), a gay man struggling with the final stages of AIDS, who wants nothing more than to rant against the injustice of his fate.
Cunningham's story is, obviously, a symphony of despair. In fact, I haven't seen this many depressed people in one film since Ingmar Bergman passed from the filmmaking scene some twenty odd years ago. Yet, `The Hours' isn't really a depressing film because the artistry used to tell the tale elevates it to the realm of poetry. David Hare's screenplay does a beautiful job weaving in and out of the three different time periods, finding effective transitions that link the various women and their situations. Director Stephen Daldry establishes a lyrical, melancholic mood that draws us into this world of sadness and regret. He also, of course, has a veritable who's who of some of the world's top film actors to work with here. Nicole Kidman gives a beautifully controlled, heartbreaking performance as the troubled Ms. Woolf, conveying a veritable cauldron of seething inner emotions through a strangely unchanging, passive and emotionless exterior. Her work here is a model of restraint and discipline, especially given the fact that many other actresses might have used this showy role as an opportunity to `go all out' in a display of thespian overkill. Julianne Moore does the same with her role, also underplaying the emotions her character is experiencing, the better to highlight the sense of stultifying confinement she finds in her life. Streep is allowed a little more leeway in the sense that she alone gets to emote at a higher level, actually raging against the demons that haunt her (as, perhaps, befits a woman living in the 21st Century). Ed Harris does a superb job getting to the core of his character as well. He doesn't have much actual time on screen, but he makes his scenes count for all they're worth.
`The Hours' is, obviously, a movie made for a specialized audience, one not easily scared off by a film with powerful themes and complex characters. In this epic of angst, three superb actresses end up taking us on a journey deep into the darkest recesses of the human soul - a journey that would be pretty much unbearable if they themselves were not there to guide us through it.
"The Hours" was the first movie I've seen in 2003. I'm easily going to
it as the best movie of 2002 and something tells me that in 12 months
I will be saying it's one of the best movies of 2003 as
Based on a Michael Cunningham novel, "The Hours" combines a real life story (Virginia Woolf), a re-written one (Laura Brown's interpretation of "Mrs. Dalloway") and an original creation as well (Clarissa Vaughn).
We get three different stories, each fascinating on its own edited together into a complex, intriguing drama that will have you in tears a couple of times before the ending credits start rolling.
What glues the stories together is "Mrs. Dalloway" - the book. Virginia Woolf, a suicidal author in England (1923) creates the character, the novel inspires a lonely housewife in Los Angeles (1951) and a 'trivial' 2001 New York City gay woman is called "Mrs. Dalloway" by her dying friend who points out the similarities between them. Later on, we find out another connection between the characters.
It's clear that the thoughts that have been put into this movie go beyond the screenplay and acting. Things like the settings & clothing for each story help compile a perfect, believable plot.
However, what really left me with awe was the PHENOMENAL acting.
Nicole Kidman (with the word "Oscar" stamped on her forehead) delivers a performance of a lifetime playing a rather difficult role while disguising everything that is usually so associated with her. With a fake nose, a cold, dark and distant attitude and above all a rough change to her voice, Kidman portrays Mrs. Woolf exactly as the writers wanted us to grasp her and manages to be the most outstanding of the three despite getting the least screen time. Absolutely amazing.
Meryl Streep (C. Vaughn, 2001) and Julianne Moore (L. Brown, 1951) give impressive lead performances themselves with memorable emotional scenes. Cameo appearances by Ed Harris, Claire Danse, John C. Riley, Alison Janney & Toni Collette all support this exquisite masterpiece.
MUST SEE. 10/10
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Nicole Kidman is writing a book, Julianne Moore is reading the book, Meryl Streep is the book. A brilliant conceit by master David Hare, astonishingly performed by Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, Ed Harris, Toni Collette, John C Railly, Allison Janney,Stephen Dillane, Miranda Richardson Jeff Daniels and Clare Danes, even Eileen Atkins in a tiny, but revelatory moment, as the flower shop owner, is a true standout. Nicole Kidman's Virgina Woolf is a bit of a miracle, specially now, 5 years later, when you can actually look at her without noticing her nose. What you do notice is her thinking, her beautifully torturous battle for sanity - whether conscious or unconscious - "Even crazy people want to be asked!- she blurts at her sister to admonished her for not having been invited to a party. Kidman is truly sensational as is Meryl Streep, although one has come to expect that and that's why Kidman makes the bigger splash. Julianne Moore however, as the depressed perfect mother/wife of the 1950's, took me completely out of the emotional tornado Kidman and Streep consistently nurture and provide. Her performance is a performance and I was painfully aware of the machinery working just behind her eyes. Regardless "The Hours" is a rewarding experience a totally accessible intellectual and emotional ride.
When I asked him about this one, the young chap in the video rental
shop said it was just about the best film on the shelves at the time. I
had no idea about it whatsoever and just went with his recommendation.
He wasn't wrong - it is impossible to fault at any level: Acting,
dialogue, costumes, locations, soundtrack, scenery, settings or
Films like this don't come along too often - beautifully made in an almost understated way, it relates to no major event or cataclysm, it chronicles no turning-point in history and it poses no worrying conundrum for the future. It is simply a quietly-told story that will criss-cross between various points in time and take you deep into the characters' emotions and portray the effect that they have on their lives. When you have seen and come to understand the events that take place, by the time it concludes it will leave you feeling refreshed and perhaps a little better in touch with the emotions in your own life - just like good films should, but sadly, so rarely do...
Easily 9 out of 10 - If you watch this one, you will not regret the time spent.
"The Hours" is about time - time we have left to make our lives enjoyable
to spend it in misery. It features the lives of three women, which might
explain why half the film-goers (the males) might not want to see it and
it was left out of Ebert and Roeper's Top 10 films. If that perception is
true, that would be a shame. "The Hours" is a wonderfully crafted film
about universal themes of life and death, suppression and freedom, and
unresolved love. That it is told from the viewpoint of three women should
not diminish any of its appeal. Virginia Woolf must combat her life long
mental affliction even as husband Leonard tries to manage her condition.
Using the novel, 'Mrs Dalloway', the film conveys the heartache of
isolation and forlorn lives in two other women who are directly connected
the book. In 1951, we meet Laura and Dan who, with their young son, would
seem an ideal family. But Laura yearns for freedom, much as Mrs.
and she must choose between giving up her family or dying. Move to 2001,
and there is yet another Mrs. Dalloway in Claire and her dogged
responsibility toward her former lover, Richard, now dying of AIDS. The
themes of liberation, lesbianism, and dying enthrall all three women, and
one does die in order that those around her might value even more the
living. You cannot find three better actresses to portray these very
complex individuals, in Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep, and Nicole Kidman,
or all should be nominated for Oscars. An equally fine supporting cast of
Ed Harris, John Reilly, Stephen Dillane, Claire Danes, and Allison Janey
make "The Hours" one of the most interesting and intelligent melodramas to
come along in a while.
Boasting an exemplary cast, purposeful direction, authentic production
values, and a haunting musical score, The Hours is a sincere praiseworthy
attempt to adapt Michael Cunningham's prize-winning novel to the screen.
is provocative, introspective, hopeful, and at times downright desolate.
evidenced by the opening sequence, the value of life itself is called into
question and it sets the tone for the rest of the film.
The complex storyline focuses on one day in the lives of three women from three different generations. Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman) is living outside of London with her husband in 1923, recovering from mental illness and beginning work on her now famous novel, Mrs. Dalloway. Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) is a 1950's suburban housewife, married to a World War II veteran (John C. Reilly), raising a small boy while expecting another child. And then there is Clarissa Vaughn (Meryl Streep), a present-day version of Mrs. Dalloway, so named by her one-time lover and now AIDS-stricken writer Richard (Ed Harris), living in New York and planning one of her renowned parties for him following his reception of a prestigious poetry award.
Yet there is a common thread among them that effaces any 'real' normalcy in their lives and ultimately forces each of them to make life-altering decisions. Themes revolving around feminism and sexual preference stir just below the surface. But it is the prevailing sadness of these women brought on by the confinements of a restrictive and often stifling society that is at the core of this film. Their yearning for something more or for that 'one perfect moment' in time places each of them in the painful position to question their own existence. The sequences in each of their lives are carefully interwoven throughout the movie, enhancing their parallel struggles.
The Hours is skillfully directed by Stephen Daldry and contains some of the finest performances of the year. Julianne Moore's depiction of Laura Brown is filled with subtlety and nuance. She epitomizes a 1950's housewife with a constant shiny exterior who can barely contain the internal struggle of her life's claustrophobic confinements. Meryl Streep's Clarissa Vaughn, though bound by memories of her past, is somewhat less restricted in her character as a modern New York editor living with her female lover and therefore has more opportunity to display her considerable emotional range.
However it is Nicole Kidman's portrayal of Virginia Woolf that is the most mesmerizing and transforming performance in the film. She is completely submerged as the famous novelist of the early twentieth century. The hype concerning Kidman's prosthetic proboscis and its alleged distraction is much ado about nothing. To the contrary, it enhances her performance and allows her characterization of Virginia Woolf to fully emerge. Audiences will not recognize her, nor should they.
But if it is familiar players and plotlines you are seeking then The Hours is not for you. It is neither fantasy nor escapism, yet what it lacks in pure entertainment it makes up for with introspection and a somewhat hopeful ending.
The Hours is a great achievement for all of the people involved in this
project. Credit must go to the director, Stephen Daldry, who pulls all the
Having admired the text where this film is based, I wondered what would any writer do with Michael Cunningham's book where three lives of three different eras intermingle with one another. David Hare treatment of the material rings true to the novel in which it's based.
The biggest revelation in the film is Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf. I have been a great admirer of this, up to now, underrated Australian actress, right from her beginnings down under. Her approach to the role is very subdued, perhaps underplaying, where someone else might try to have gone over the top stressing Virginia's madness. All the praise Ms Kidman has received for this film is certainly well deserved.
The other great performance is Julianne Moore. This actress keeps getting better and better with any new appearance on the screen. Her Laura Brown is a pathetic figure. She's a desperate soul trapped in the Los Angeles suburbia of the 40s. She has a man, who obviously loves her. She has a son who shows all the signs, even then, of what he might ultimately become in life. Laura wants to end it all. She just doesn't belong in that world of domestic bliss. Ms Moore gets the right tone in playing Laura. There's not a wrong movement in her approach to this demanding role.
The third outstanding portrayal is Meryl Streep's. The sure hand of the director is obviously behind her reining the excesses she likes so well. This Clarissa Vaughan is in limbo in her own life. Her relationship with the younger lover is clearly over, or at least seen better days. Ms Streep gives a dignified reading of this character.
The rest of the cast is brilliant: Miranda Richardson, Tony Colette, Ed Harris, John C. Reilly, and little Jack Rovello. They are all on the mark.
"The Hours" is an extremely intelligent movie. It's deep and sensitive and the script is something different for a change. The acting couldn't get any better. EVERY role was casted perfectly. I never really liked Nicole Kidman but she is a fantastic actress and at the moment she just chooses the right roles. She definitely deserved the Oscar. Juliane Moore is amazing, too. I wonder if there is any genre she can't do. And then, there's Meryl Streep. Will this woman ever stop being great? I mean after all the great movies she's been in in the 80's, she's still making exceptional films such as "Adaptation" and "The Hours", whereas other actors who were great 10 years ago pretty much lost it today *cough*Pacino*cough*DeNiro*cough, cough*. The director did a wonderful job and the score is another big plus of this movie. The haunting music underlines the depressing all around atmosphere and lets one feel how miserable these main characters are all the time. At times I felt like these women's sadness was explained too little, though. Maybe that's manly ignorance but I couldn't totally figure out why Juliane Moore's character was so depressed all the time. It was a little annoying that she never stopped crying and you couldn't tell why. I paid attention and I did try reading between the lines but that was a mystery to me. Probably just a personal problem. All in all I think this is the 2nd best movie of 2003's Oscar movies (1st being "The Pianist", 3rd "About Schmidt").
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