The Hours (2002)
Okay, after watching the Golden Globes award show and seeing The Hours crowned with the highest prize, and hearing incessantly about Nicole Kidman’s fake prosthetic nose in the movie, it was time to venture into that darkened theater and see how good the awards-friendly The Hours was. Little did I fully realize what I was getting myself into.
Nicole Kidman plays Virginia Woolf, who is in the midst of writing her novel Mrs. Dalloway, where she proposes to display a womans entire life through the events of a single day. Julianne Moore plays Laura Brown, a housewife in 1951 having difficulty adjusting to a domestic life that she feels ill equipped for. Meryl Streep plays Clarissa Vaughan, a gay copy-editor in 2001 planning a party for a poet and former lover (an emaciated Ed Harris), who is suffering from the late stages of AIDS. These three storylines will be juggled as the film progresses, with each womans life deeply changing before the end of the day.
The Hours is a meandering mess where the jigsaw pieces can be easily identified. The attempt at a resolution for an ending, tying the three storylines together, is handled very clumsily. The film spins on and on that you start to believe the title may be more appropriate than intended. What this movie needed was a rappin kangaroo, post haste! The film is wrought with victimization and screams ”Give me an award already!” Before you know it youre being bludgeoned to death with what is profoundly the most over serious Lifetime network movie ever assembled. And there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with Lifetime movies but The Hours does not share the sensibilities of its TV brethren.
Kidman, nose and all, gives a strong performance displaying the torture and frailty of a writer trapped within her own mind but too often relies on wistful staring or icy glares. Moore is effectively demoralized but cannot resonate with such a shallow character. Streep is the least effective of the three and fizzles among an over-stuffed assembly of characters.
The supporting cast is unjustly left for dead. The characters are seen as parody (Toni Collette as Moore’s un-liberated homemaker neighbor), extraneous (Claire Danes as Streep’s daughter, Allison Janney as Streep’s lover, Jeff Daniels as Harris ex-lover, you know what, almost anyone in the Streep storyline), one-note (the workmanlike John C. Reilly who plays yet another doting and demystified husband) or merely obnoxious (Moore’s brat child that refuses to separate from her). It appears The Hours is the three lead actress game, and everyone else is not invited to play along.
Stephen Daldry’s direction shows surprising stability and instinct after his art-house pandering Billy Elliot showed little. The technical aspects of The Hours are quite competent, especially the sharp editing and musical score, which just points out further how slickly hollow and manufactured the film is.
The Hours is an over-glossed, morose film that is too self-important for its own good. It sucks the life out of everything. And for all its doom and gloom and tsunami of tears, the only insightful thing The Hours is trying to pass off onto the public is that women are more depressed than you think.
Nate’s Grade: C
Posted on January 4, 2003, in 2002 Movies and tagged allison janey, claire danes, drama, ed harris, gay, indie, jeff daniels, john c. reilly, julianne moore, meryl streep, nicole kidman, oscars, period film, stephen daldry, toni collette. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.