The Hours (2002) / Drama
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for mature thematic elements, some disturbing images and brief language
Running Time: 114 min.
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep, Ed Harris, Jack Rovello
Director: Stephen Daldry
Screenplay: David Hare (based on the novel by Michael Cunningham)
Review published December 23, 2002
The Hours is the kind of film that either has resonance with you or it doesn't. It didn't really for me, but being a young(ish) male, I doubt that it was necessarily meant to. I suspect that it definitely strikes a chord in many women, especially those in the 40s and above. That's not to say that others can't appreciate it, after all, the director, the screenwriter, and the author who wrote the book (Michael Cunningham) on which this is adapted from are all male. Yet, the true feeling for the plights of the characters still did not evoke much feeling within me.
The story follows three women alive during different eras. We start with the writer Virginia Woolf Kidman, Birthday Girl), who looks to be drowning herself in a river at the beginning of the film. Jumping back, we learn of her struggles in keeping her sanity, being very unhappy with things for reason only she can truly comprehend. The same goes for Laura (Moore, Far from Heaven), a 1950s mother who is confined by her everyday existence as a housewife, also contemplating suicide as a means to escape. Then there is the Clarissa of today (Streep, Adaptation), having to prepare a party to celebrate the lifelong achievement of her beloved writer friend suffering from AIDS. All of the stories are linked to Woolf's work, "Mrs. Dalloway", also drawing upon the themes of being trapped in a life of pleasing others, and notions of suicide to escape.
Regardless of my personal feelings, or lack thereof, I still found The Hours to be a well-made film with more than enough moments of interest to recommend. The quality of the acting is top-notch, as is the way director Daldry (Billy Elliot, The Reader) interweaves the three stories into a unified whole, while also employing some nicely placed symbolic touches within each. Even if the story's emotional elements eluded me, I do respect the film for the manner in which it is put together. At the same time, with all of the wonderful elements that comprise The Hours, and my regard for the filmmaking prowess of the director, I should also let you know that this is the kind of film that I respected far more than I liked.
I would not recommend The Hours to most people, as this is a sophisticated, stuffy, and borderline pretentious endeavor that would probably bore the majority of viewers out there. However, if you like introspective and challenging stories about women coming to grips with their own mortality, sexuality, and societal roles as woman and mother, the quality of this film should leave a lasting impression. Fans of the three leading ladies, and of the literary works of Virginia Woolf in particular, should be ecstatic. For the rest of us, this film is like medicine. We know it's probably good for us, but the bitter taste is enough to avoid it unless absolutely necessary.
©2002 Vince Leo