Starring: Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Ed Harris, Jeff Daniels, Toni Collette, Allison Janey, Claire Daines
Directed by Stephen Daldry
Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, The Hours, by Michael Cunningham
The film follows one day in the lives of its three main characters: Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman), Clarissa Vaughn (Meryl Streep), and Laura Brown (Julianne Moore). The three women are separated by decades but are all interconnected via Virginia Woolf’s famous novel, Mrs. Dalloway; Virginia Woolf is writing the novel in 1923, Laura Brown is reading the novel in 1951, and Clarissa Vaughn is the modern day embodiment of Mrs. Dalloway and in the middle of party preparations. The three women barrel towards tragedy as they move through the events of the day, each one dealing with some sizeable emotional turmoil that stems from deep within themselves.
Disclaimer*** I haven’t read the book this film is based on, so this review is based solely on my reaction to the film.
A river of melancholy rages through the plot of this film. The undercurrents of tragedy tug and drag the viewer through a series of tormented exchanges between the main characters and their loved ones. This is not a happy film. It does not satisfy so much as it moves the audience in a similar way that an awkward or unpleasant encounter can stay with a person for years. The film contains beauty in its aesthetics and setting, but this beauty is marred by an enveloping sense of sadness that looms over the lives of each character.
This is one of those gorgeous films where its music is absolutely essential to the plot of the story. Well, maybe not essential to the plot, but it makes the film what it is. Phillip Glass’s score traces the diegesis with a tune that feels like it guides the characters towards their despair-riddled purpose. The piano-heavy soundtrack adds tension and anguish that sometimes threatens to send the audience over the edge. This story is psychological and explores many subjects, including mental illness, female fulfillment, and the evolution of women’s sexuality over the course of the 20th century.
Kidman, Moore, and Streep seem to seem to have an inherent understanding of the inner workings of the minds of their characters. Streep and Moore both allow the emotional turmoil of their characters to boil to the surface with perfectly timed neurotic moments. Kidman, who won an Oscar for Best Actress for her captivating portrayal of the late English novelist, is just as nervous and on edge as you would expect the real Virginia Woolf to be. She donned a prosthetic nose to imitate the likeness of the writer, and though some people criticised the costume piece, I think it helped Kidman leave her old self behind and truly step into the skin of her character.
It’s remarkable, really, that a film with such a stacked cast like this one is so perfectly balanced. This may be a result of the structure which separates these distinguished actresses so they have their own stage on which to shine. The structure of the film had the potential to appear disjointed, but director Stephen Daldry connects the three narratives seamlessly.
“The Hours” is interesting. The subject matter is dark, but it provokes thought and reflection. The stellar performances of the cast, Phillip Glass’s soundtrack, and Stephen Daldry’s direction gelled perfectly to create a masterful work of art. If you haven’t seen it, it’s on HBO right now, and I highly recommend it. Just be prepared; this film may make you cry.
Rating: 4 out of 4 Stars
Thank you for reading! What are your thoughts about The Hours? Let me know in the comments below!
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