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So said the gay ex-lover of Richard (Ed Harris) - whose name I
mercifully forget - about a book written by Richard - whose title I
mercifully forget. But while the quote is about Richard's fictional
book, the words serve also as an apt description of this movie, which
goes on and on - and on and on - without anything really happening. OK.
I exaggerate a wee bit. In the last twenty minutes or so some things do
happen, but it sure takes a long time to get there, and the wait isn't
worth the effort.
The story is supposedly about how the lives of three women all revolve around a novel by Virginia Woolf: Virginia Woolf herself (Nicole Kidman) as she struggles to write the book, Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) as she contemplates suicide, and Clarissa Vaughan (Meryl Streep) as she deals with her ex-husband Richard (who wrote the boring fictional book) who is now dying of AIDS. Frankly the story is not just dull; it's rather depressing, and I was never able to get into it from the very beginning. There was nothing here that interested me.
I do confess, though, to being mystified by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts. This movie got eight Oscar nominations? And how in the world did Nicole Kidman win for Best Actress when - in my humble opinion - she wasn't even the lead actress in the movie? As far as I'm concerned that "honour" - dubious though it is in this project - belongs to Julianne Moore, whose character was much more central to the story and received much more screen time (and who was credited ahead of Kidman). But who can understand such things? All I know is - this was tedious viewing from start to finish.
This film begins with Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman) walking down to
river, filling her pockets with rocks, wading in and drowning. This will
the only lighthearted moment in the film. After that it gets really
It should have been titled "Frustrated, Suicidal Lesbians" but I
it would attract an audience. It wallows in misery and self-pity and
celebrates suicide and abandonment as legitimate solutions. It also
suggests that true genius can only come from neuroses.
It is an unbelievable misuse of acting talent. "The Hours" is how much of your life you will waste watching it.
If someone asked me to describe this movie in one sentence, here it is: "A
movie about three women, each one depressed, each one connected by having
read and being "inspired" by Mrs. Dalloway (Virginia Woolf), each one
moaning and groaning about her sad life."
WHY would anyone go to watch a movie about being miserable? Isn't life already tough enough outside the movie theater, that we need to go and waste our precious time trying to "identify" with other miserable characters? I believe movies should be inspiring and encouraging; not bring our spirits down at the end of the whole thing. It took a lot to continue sitting there in the movie without getting up and leaving. I had paid for the ticket already!
The Hours (2002)
A layered, vivid, ambitious movie with literary and emotional strains that weave through an eighty year sandwich of parallel stories. And some of the acting is just fabulous. An excellent movie.
At the core is the modernist writer, Virginia Woolf, famous for being one of the great original voices of literature in the 20th Century, and for her personal struggle against mental illness, which led to her 1941 suicide (shown in the first scene in the movie). We know the drama is going to be high, and that there is a real history underpinning it all.
But it's fiction, too. Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway" is being written in the earliest (1920s) narrative, showing Woolf herself (Nicole Kidman). This book is being read in the second narrative (with Julianne Moore being the reader, a 1950s housewife with some mental instability of her own). And the contemporary (2001) narrative is a take on the Dalloway story, with echoes from the other two threads--here a writer is dying of aids and his best friend and caretaker, nicknamed Mrs. Dalloway for fun, is trying to keep him from committing suicide.
For me it was this last story that made the movie take hold. The writer is played by a surprisingly sickly looking Ed Harris, and his friend is played by Meryl Streep. These are two of Hollywood's great actors--the kinds of actors who take on a variety of roles and really change movie to movie. And their scenes together are like the best stage dramas you could ask for. For this alone the movie is worth soaking up.
In the 1920s world it is Kidman who is central--and in a real way she is the center of the idea of the movie, if not its filming. Woolf is of course the source of it all. And Kidman (who is no match for Streep in her career but who wants to be, to her credit) pulls off one of her best performances. Her husband, the somber and loving Leopold, tries to keep Woolf healthy, both physically (by making her eat) and mentally (by giving her support). That he fails, ultimately, is visible in his body language. (The actor is Stephen Dillane.) Besides this key relationship, the scenes in 20s are a little stilted, as if surviving on the aura of the times more than the events, which are minimal until the tragic climax.
In a similar way, the 1950s story is dripping with 50s set design and stereotypes of lonely housewives and sweet children and emotional restraint. There's truth to all this of course, but I was there, almost (as a kid) and there was another kind of intensity and life that is somehow missing here. Moore is rather good, though for me a bit trapped by the character she has to play. There is a nice twist to this story as it goes, which is a tonic to the general dread.
Which brings us back to the current realm and Streep and Harris, and most of all Streep who is juggling several balls at once in a masterful (another masterful) performance.
There seems to be everything here for a perfect movie, including an excellent script. The themes themselves are what end up too simplified and frankly too pushy to quite work. An extra parallel of a lesbian subplot in each case is interesting and actually helpful (some critics didn't like it), though a bit forced into the 1950s version. (The whole 1950s segment kept me thinking of "Far From Heaven" with its themes and period set design--and Julianne Moore--also released in 2002.)
Sadly, the score by Philip Glass is a droning, intrusive distraction. There is a good logic to making a score have no sense of its own era, so that it can float across the shifting periods in a unifying way. But it's that kind of canned Glass stuff that can be brilliant at its best but is here insensitive to the movie, and weirdly dry in its colorful tunefulness.
Still, I say this is one you should watch once, and should see again if you think you've seen it enough already. There's a lot to admire, a lot to think about, and a lot to digest. The best of it is, well, among the best.
What a piece of work!! I ran accidentally into this movie...and it became my favorite. Of course, you don't get to see Moore, Streep and Kidman acting so often together so you should enjoy the movie for this reason first. Then..well there are so many details to learn from in this "chef d'oeuvre" .Where should I begin from? Woolf's life is in each one of the three caracthers.Let's begin with Moore for instance: in the movie, she's an awful mother, madly in love with a friend of hers, she neglects her own son and her behavior's repercussions are later terribly borne by her son- who, by the way, became a great writer, misunderstood and...sick - sick of the world around him and suffering from AIDS. It's always a reason for which we are who we are and we become who we become. And it's disastrous for a mother not to understand her son's pain even when his story -untold and cruel story- lies in a book, incomprehensible by "common people". In the end,Laura (Moore) realizes her mistakes, but it is too late for her because her son dies alone, unable to bear the illness and "The Hours"..after the party. Streep(Clarissa) does a great job. She loves to take care of her best friend Richard ( Ed Harris), she enjoys going to his place , being always there for him, seeing her life through his eyes. But she loses, she can not be brave anymore, she gives up the feeling of special friendship between the two of them , when he kills himself. Then she takes refuge into her girlfriend's arms accepting that that compassion can be physical sometimes..those feelings of inner hate and untouchable personality can be defeated by a kiss from the one you love and live for. All these events happen on the background of Woolf's life. Kidman (Virginia) suffers a lot: there is no more love left for her, the walls are closing in and her story remains untold. She wrestles " alone , in the dark" and the only light is the one from her cigarettes. Virginia invented lives, dramas and destinies, invented and reinvented her life in her work. She drowns into life as Laura (Moore) drowns into Woolf's obsession . And while Laura escapes the passion of misleading life, Virginia embraces the predicted supreme silent moment of death. And there are no exequies , but silence for her. The glaring sun sets upon her life,leaving her "oeuvre" undying. She is "l'auteur" - and not "the author" - of everyone's destiny who believe that facts happen for a reason. At the end of "The Hours", the feeling of uselessness seems irrepressible, the story giving us the very meaning of life. Always the hours between us...and the others.
This is one of those rare films which has me wavering between a 9 and a
10 out of 10. I selected '9' for one reason, and I have to admit that
my reason is not entirely fair to the film. To put it bluntly, I am a
bit tired of books about writers, books about writing, and films about
writing and writers. The self-referential sub-genre of fine fiction is,
in my opinion, over-played and has begun to become pretentious and
Nevertheless, I can say with equal honesty that The Hours is a masterpiece of dark literary melodrama. It is NOT AT ALL pretentious, but rather true to its subjects and incredibly well crafted. As with many post-modern melodramas, there are several simultaneous multi-layered plots representing several different time periods. A good popular example of this story-telling technique is the film Magnolia, which also shares a few cast members with The Hours. The themes all seem connected by a single thread - that of depression and suicide. Two of the main characters (Harris and Kidman) are well-respected writers who feel incarcerated in their lives (Kidman plays Virginia Woolf and Harris a fictional poet with AIDS). There are several additional connections, some subtle some not, most focused on the writing of Virginia Woolf, which are revealed as the film progresses. The fact that the connections between the plots are largely unnecessary and irrelevant to the main plot and yet compelling is testimony to the power of the story-telling and the masterful acting, scripting and directing.
There is little sense in writing a plot summary for this film - the story evolves out of the profound and evocative characterizations explored in each part, so a plot summary would be as superfluous as a list of character attributes. One of the best casts I have ever seen is not at all wasted on this disturbing yet very true material. Philip Glass' soundtrack is nice, but might be a bit too repetitive to bear several viewings.
This is a film for people who do not see film as simple entertainment, but it's not a film which will bring sweetness and light to your heart. It might be a good one to see with somebody you really love, and who you might want to know a bit better than you do. It will certainly seed discussion. But be forewarned, this is serious business.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I am a writer myself and not only does it make you want to stop and write it also inspires people to think about their lives a little more. Look at this movie and I am sure that it will leave you thinking about a lot more things than you were the day before. Nicole Kidman is not my favorite actress; but she surprised me with a very good choice. Streep and Moore both give wonderful performances; but Kidman steals the show in this powerful performance. Even though I really loved this movie, I found Moore's character slightly annoying. She seemed to go to very different lengths to get where she needed to go, where Kidman and Streep went to different ones, but had a sort of connection. Ed Harris gives another wonderful performance and was again raped from the awards he deserved.
...she absolutely deserved the Oscar for her part in this. She somehow has a brilliant knack for playing sombre roles superbly and hamming excited and giddy roles right up! I loved Moulin Rouge, but hated her as Satine at her most excitable. I (worryingly) enjoyed the remake of The Stepford Wives, yet Nicole as the filling of the ham sandwich in all three manifestations of Joanna Eberhart (vamp, doting wife, robot) made me cringe with unease. But in The Hours came her glimmer and hope, and all my expectations were proved wrong. I expected Nicole Kidman at her most enthusiastic, I got someone who even outstripped the mighty Meryl (who was still marvellous, as usual). Was just a shame Julianne Moore didn't win anything either. But all in all: Splendid.
I'd first just like to make this clear: I'm not the typical movie-going
stood in line to see "Jackass" on opening weekend or drove "XXX" to a $100
million+ box office take. No, my favorite films of the year included Michael
Cacoyannis' sublime adaptation of Chekov's "The Cherry Orchard," the
brilliantly scripted "Igby Goes Down," and Phillip Noyce's shattering "Rabbit- Proof Fence." So now that I've established that I have semi-decent taste in film, I would like to offer that I think that "The Hours" is undoubtedly the WORST film I have seen in ages. The lead performances - Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep,
Julianne Moore, and Ed Harris - are so poorly conceived and directed as to be embarrasing. There IS good acting in the film, but it's in the small roles - Toni Collette, Clair Danes, and Jeff Daniels. The scene early in the movie when
Meryl Streep goes to the florist is such a disaster of poor scripting and line directory that I was having to stifle laughter. And need we speak of Phillip Glass' score? I like Mr. Glass' music, but Stephen Daldry has inexplicably allowed him to use nothing but slight variations on the EXACT SAME THEME throughout the entire film. The volume of the music has
been mixed very high in comparison to the dialogue, and the result is that the music insufferably overpowers every damned scene it appears is, which is
nearly every one. And the dialogue... what we have in this film is dialogue that works on the
printed page only. Novelists can get away with using arch or unnatural
dialogue because we're not hearing it spoken and we can sort of compensate in our heads. However, when dialogue this ridiculous comes out of an actor's
mouth it becomes pretentious and unbelievable. Does anyone actually believe
that people TALK like this? Absolute silliness. Not to sound insulting to people who liked the movie, but this film is for people who haven't the patience or depth the read a novel of any substance and watch films like this in order to posture themselves as literate. I saw this film with a group of my college professors, and we all went out for coffee afterwards and had a right old time just ripping this film to shreds. I sincerely hope you'll do the same and prevent Paramount and Miramax from financing more debaucles like
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The thing about this movie is that it is based on a book that has
significant connections with a second book, which means that if you do
not know the book that the book is based on then it can be difficult to
understand what is going on. The book, 'The Hours' is, not so much
based on, but written out of, a book by Virginia Woolf called Mrs
Dalloway. I have heard of the book, and have a vague idea about what
the book is about, but I haven't read it, and don't plan on reading it
until the next time I am in London (namely because somebody said that
Mrs Dalloway is a book that one should read while wondering around
London, and if there is one place in London that I like to read books,
it is on a seat next to the Round Pond in Kensington Gardens, looking
over at a palace, while drinking a cup of tea).
Anyway, Mrs Dalloway is set during a single day and begins with Mrs Dalloway going off and buying some flowers, and then spends the rest of the day preparing for a party. The Hours is about three women who are connected, one of them being Virginia Woolf as she writes Mrs Dalloway, and the other two, one in the 1940s, the other in 2001, preparing for a party. I will not say too much about the connections between two of the woman, but obviously one of the connections involves the book Mrs Dalloway, which is how Virginia Woolf is connected with the other two.
I have seen something like this before, with Cloud Atlas, where you seem to have three disconnected stories, but they are connected by a simple thread. However, like Cloud Atlas, the connections in this story run a lot deeper. For instance, the women are both preparing for a party, and the woman begin by going out and buying flowers. The connection with Virginia Woolf though is simply through the book Mrs Dalloway.
I wasn't a big fan of this film, though I did actually think Nicole Kidman played Virginia Woolf really well (and I am not a big fan of Kidman). Meryl Streep also played her role well, however because I have not read the book, it is difficult for me to compare the characters in the film with those in the book, however if I am to read the book, it will definitely be after I have read Mrs Dalloway, which means it will be after I go to London for a third time.
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