{2jtab: Movie Review}

The HOurs


A Netflix Finds Review

3 stars

Stephen Daldry has spent the last decade or so racking up Oscar nominations for his overly Oscar baiting dramas. He surrounds himself with talented casts who have secured multiple nominations. To date, of his films, every single one has netted an acting nomination for at least one cast member. His ability to direct acting helped Kate Winslet “finally” secure her gold statue, even if it was for the tepid if not underwhelming The Reader back in 2008.

Before he was known for projects like The Reader and the atrocious Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Daldry was displaying natural talent in The Hours. He gathered a cast of A-listers like Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Ed Harris, John C. Reilly, Claire Danes, and Jeff Daniels. His penchant for multi-layered narratives has become a winning combination in conjunction with his casting.

The Hours is his best work to date though. Lacking the tear jerking nature of his first major release Billy Elliot, and veering away from the drab story telling of The Reader, The Hours crosses three different timelines with three different main characters, each one sharing a connection to the 1925 novel Mrs. Dalloway written by Virginia Woolf - with Kidman playing the famed writer during her time of constructing the novel, Moore tackling a 1950s era pregnant housewife with depression and lesbian tendencies who is reading the novel, and lastly Streep taking on the titular role of Clarissa Dalloway in a modern setting as she tends to her dying friend.

The most compelling aspect of The Hours, as I’ve already stated, is the acting. There’s a pool of extremely talented actors and actresses here. It’s an ensemble, and snagged an Oscar for Nicole Kidman (and her prosthetic nose) as well as nominations for Harris and Moore. Unfortunately for Streep in this case, she ends up being the weakest link. Not to slight her abilities here, but amongst the titanic performance of Kidman and the quietly psychotic nature of Moore, Streep seems rather out of place. Nonetheless she’s a force to be reckoned with, and without her delightful presence, Ed Harris’ AIDS riddled Richard would probably not have been as impactful. Dalloway, like in the novel, spends the day preparing a party. In this case it’s for Richard who has finished a novel depicting a semi-fictionalized account of his life and now he’s being awarded for doing such a fantastic job. The majority of readers that Clarissa comes by however find the novel to be too heavy, something she disagrees with. The stress of preparing for this party, coupled with her dear friends deteriorating health, causes a mental breakdown for her.

Meanwhile, Moore’s Laura Brown spends her husbands birthday attempting to bake him a cake with her son. Her suffering seems typical of the time - married too early possibly, spending her eventless days tidying up the house and making everything perfect for her husband (a dull-witted John C. Reilly). On this day though, Laura has different plans. She drops off her reluctant son at a babysitters much to his dismay. Today, Laura has decided to kill her baby. She checks into a hotel and prepares for the worst.

Needless to say there’s a lot of crying in The Hours. Daldry approaches the subject matter with an intuitive heart, he has a knack for this kind of drama as evidenced by his filmography. He picks his projects probably with this in mind - as with all artists he wants you to feel something from his work, and feel you must. He manages to tackle just about any sense of sadness you could possibly want from a film - death, love/heartbreak, monotony, hopelessness, you name it, he touches on it. To me though, I find the struggles of Moore to be a water treading issue that we’ve seen in film quite a bit. In fact, all of the tragedies in The Hours are tragedies we’ve all seen played out on the screen numerous times. What makes them so refreshing here is the tenderness that’s instilled in the scenes.

It’s far from being a positive exercise. The gloomy nature of the film obviously will not help anyone battling with depression rise above their demons, nor will it motivate anyone to take up writing as their extra curricular activity for the month. It will, however, present an aspiring actor with a lesson plan. Not to sound misogynistic, but I find the story of Ed Harris’ Richard to be the most endearing aspect of The Hours. His life struggles act as the glue for the narratives, even if the novel was about Woolf. It manages to transcend the normal time splitting dramas that have come out of Hollywood in the last few decades. No matter what you’re fancy may be, The Hours is an impeccable drama, rich with evocative storytelling, poignant performances, and a memorable Philip Glass tinged score laced throughout. The Hours is also conflicting in that it promotes a depression within all of us, as the three central characters struggle with their emotions, the audience must fight theirs.

{2jtab: Film Details}

The HoursMPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic elements, some disturbing images and brief language.
114 mins.
: Stephen Daldry
Writer: David Hare
Cast: Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore
Genre: Drama
Our lives. Our story.
Memorable Movie Quote: "You cannot find peace by avoiding life, Leonard."
Paramount Pictures
Official Site: www.miramax.com/movie/the-hours
Theatrical Release Date:
January 24, 2003
Link to Netflix:
The Hours

Synopsis: Three eras, three stories, and three women coalesce into a continuum that flows through the heart of The Hours. Each woman is joined to the other like links in a chain, unaware that the power of a single great work of literature is irrevocably altering their lives. First there is Virginia Woolf, in a suburb of London in the early 1920s, battling insanity as she begins to write her first great novel, Mrs. Dalloway. Over two decades later, Laura Brown is a wife and mother in Los Angeles at the end of World War II, who is reading Mrs. Dalloway and finding it so revelatory that she begins to consider making a devastating change in her life. And then, in contemporary New York City, there is Clarissa Vaughan, a modern version of Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, in love with her friend Richard, a brilliant poet dying of AIDS. Their stories intertwine and finally come together in a surprising and transcendent moment of shared recognition.

{2jtab: Trailer}