Wednesday, January 30, 2013

#898. The Hours (2002)

Directed By: Stephen Daldry

Starring: Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore

Tag line: "The time to hide is over. The time to regret is gone. The time to live is now"

Trivia: Nicole Kidman read all of Virginia Woolf's personal letters, and found that they gave her greater access to her character than her novels

Inspired by the Virginia Woolf novel Mrs. Dalloway, The Hours is a moving film about three women across time, all sharing a certain bond and longing for more than they have.

We start in 1924, as Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman) is beginning work on her newest book, Mrs. Dalloway. She resides in the country with her husband, publisher Leonard Woolf (Stephen Dillane). They left London behind so Virginia, who recently suffered a complete mental breakdown, could escape the hustle & bustle, but she’s convinced being away from the city is causing her to go mad. Following a visit from her sister, Vanessa Bell (Miranda Richardson), Virginia’s desire to return to London grows stronger than ever.

Our next stop is 1951. Housewife Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) has just started reading Mrs. Dalloway. She is married to the kind, somewhat dull Dan (John C. Reilly), has a son, Richie (Jack Rovello), and another child on the way. In spite of her seemingly perfect suburban existence, Laura feels trapped. She’s even contemplated suicide, but for the sake of her family, can’t bring herself to do it. Laura puts on a brave face, yet privately wishes her life were very different.

In 2001, Clarissa Vaughan (Meryl Streep) is preparing a party for Richard (Ed Harris), a poet and novelist who has contracted AIDS, and is dying. Both he and Clarissa lead an alternate lifestyle and have partners of their own, yet Clarissa can’t help but think back to a moment in time when she and Richard were young and spent an entire summer together, during which she fell in love with him. Now, she spends her days doting on her sickly, chronically unhappy friend, and both Clarissa’s daughter, Julia (Claire Danes), and partner, Sally (Allison Janney), try to convince Clarissa that Richard is manipulating her. Of course, Clarissa already knows this, and doesn't mind one bit. When she's with Richard, everything seems OK.

How do these stories tie together? I’ll leave that for you to discover, because the intricate puzzle that The Hours so wonderfully constructs around its characters is one of the movie’s many strengths.

What I found most captivating were the film’s three leads, Kidman, Streep, and Moore, near-flawless in their portrayals of women whose lives are spinning out of control. Kidman deservedly won the Academy Award as the year’s Best Actress, but the standout performance is delivered by Moore, the suburban wife and mother who feels the world is closing in on her. All of the supporting players hold their own, especially Harris as the dying Richard. And look for Jeff Daniels in a small role as Richard’s partner, Louis.

The Hours is a heartbreaking tale of women at a crossroads, each trying to deal with the realization that their lives are no longer their own. Expertly directed by Stephen Daldry, The Hours is an emotionally draining, yet wholly rewarding experience.

1 comment: said...

I wasn't a huge lover of this movie like everybody was. I get why so many people fell in love with it and really touched them, but still, for me, I was just left unmoved. Nice pick, though!