The Hours (2002)
The Hours (2002)

Genre: Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 50 min.

Release Date: December 27th, 2002 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Stephen Daldry Actors: Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep, Stephen Dillane, Miranda Richardson, John C. Reilly, Toni Collette, Ed Harris, Allison Janney, Claire Danes, Jeff Daniels

 


 

“I

feel certain that I am going mad again.” In Sussex, England in 1941, Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman, donning a distracting prosthetic nose) determines that she can’t go on any longer. The voices in her head are crushing, and she doesn’t want to continue spoiling her husband’s life. And so, she fills her robe with stones and wades out into a stream.

In Los Angeles in 1951, Dan Brown (John C. Reilly) arrives home to look in on his pregnant, sleeping wife Laura (Julianne Moore), before he heads off to work on the morning of his birthday. After he departs, Laura and their young son set about baking a cake. But she’s clearly suffering from some sort of psychological disorder, exacerbated by casual comments from friends and family about her inability to handle seemingly simple tasks.

In New York City in 2001, Sally (Allison Janney) sneaks back to her home with Clarissa Vaughan (Meryl Streep), who has her head full of plans for an upcoming party to celebrate her dear friend Richard’s (Ed Harris) recent poetry prize. But Richard isn’t in a jubilant mood; he’s dying of AIDS and he believes the writing award was a consolation decision. “Would you be angry if I died?”

And finally, the film jumps back in time to Richmond, England during 1923, where Leonard Woolf (Stephen Dillane) worries about his sickly Virginia, whose appetite is minimal and whose headaches are recurring, getting in the way of her writing. The cutting back and forth between time periods is initially exhausting, though it does nicely juxtapose locations, props, and actions across the decades. Also tying the narratives together is the novel “Mrs. Dalloway” and the pervading theme of building facades to conceal underlying frailties.

“Only I can understand my own condition.” Additionally, the story tackles notions of mortality, the pursuit of happiness, being remembered, life’s accomplishments (or the triviality of life itself), regret, feelings of inadequacy, coping with mental health issues, figurative confinement, troubled pasts, and lost loves. Plus, at its heart, “The Hours” investigates the ways in which suicide offers absolute relief from anguish; total escape for the doer, yet a considerable, unalterable impact on the survivors. These potent topics are presided over by alternatingly overdramatic music and subtle yet enchanting melodies (by Philip Glass), artistically augmenting a collection of striking performances by an all-star cast (including impressive, minor roles for Miranda Richardson, Toni Collette, Claire Danes, and Jeff Daniels).

Unfortunately, however, the pacing is off (“The whole thing seems to go on for eternity. Nothing happens,” remarks Richard’s former lover). Between emotional conversations and actions that parallel Mrs. Dalloway’s plights, the momentum dips. Yet third-act revelations are astounding; the structuring of the narrative to run the course of a single day is unique; and focusing on women in different time periods, refusing to let male characters overshadow their tales, is refreshing. Despite a few lags, ”The Hours” ends up being a poignant, mature, satisfying drama and, in many ways, ahead of its time.

– Mike Massie

  • 8/10