The Hours

"Good"

The Hours Review


Stephen Daldry's The Hours is the quintessential highbrow arthouse picture of the year, the one film critics from the coasts will adore but is guaranteed to alienate audience members more in tune with Maid in Manhattan, Analyze That or The Two Towers.

Consider yourself warned. A Masters degree and a penchant for PBS' Masterpiece Theatre aren't required to fully comprehend and enjoy the picture, but they help. Hours masterfully weaves together three individual stories about three interconnected women existing in three different decades. Mentally ill author Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman) is on suicide watch in 1920s England as she pens her novel Mrs. Dalloway. Suburban housewife and mother Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) reads the same novel in 1951 as she suffers through a loveless marriage with her WWII veteran husband (John C. Reilly) and overprotected son, Richie (eight-year-old Jack Rovello). And modern day New York City book publisher Clarissa Vaughn (Meryl Streep) mirrors the character of Mrs. Dalloway as she plans a party for her dying ex-lover, Richard (Ed Harris), who recently won a literary prize.

Hours just works at its own pace, one commonly seen in most breeds of snails. Not surprisingly, the very British director Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot) and his equally British screenwriter David Hare have produced the most prim, proper, sophisticated, and stuffy drama to be released in America this year. I'm not sure if author Michael Cunningham's Pulitzer Prize-winning source novel was this pretentious, but he's from Cincinnati, so I'm going to assume it isn't.

Hours has the ability to stimulate, mostly as it unfurls its twisty canvas of ideas. The director employs clever devices to tie his co-existing decades together. The ringing of an alarm clock, the placing of flowers in a vase - all these actions occur simultaneously in each era, and Daldry uses them as springboards to move the action back and forth and avoid continuous continuity dilemmas.

But Daldry lays the symbolism on awfully thick, sensing his audience might have trouble digesting all of the serious themes at play. Young Richie constructs a log cabin and smashes it minutes later, in case you didn't get the fact that his parents occupy a broken home. And Woolf lies on the ground to stare into the black eyes of a dead bird, which seamlessly morphs into Moore's emotionally "dead" Laura Brown.

It doesn't help that the characters in The Hours are virtually inaccessible. All the suicidal-surburban-bipolar-noncommittal-lesbian authors from the early 20th century in the theater will nod their understanding heads in unison. The rest of us may struggle to connect with characters that are kept at an arm's length from us by their extraordinarily dark situations. A somber soundtrack of sobbing string instruments and a laundry list of dysfunctions help us know when to cry, but Hours never fully tells us why. The film conjures some spectacular settings and grown-up topics, but has no story to speak of.

That being said, the film is made bearable by its three powerful leads. Streep stands taller than the rest, fluctuating wildly from manic depressive to exaggeratedly cheerful while her own fabrics come undone. And Kidman, unrecognizable beneath her astounding prosthetics, subtly solidifies the underdeveloped role of Virginia Woolf, the inspiration for the rest of the film. Given the chance to dramatically overact, each actress wisely finds the strength in the small moments of their characters. They're supported by a fine ensemble of male actors, except Rovello, who may be eight but still gives one of the worst kid performances in recent memory.

The Hours has all the makings of an acclaimed novel, one that sits atop the New York Times' best-sellers list for weeks at a time. In fact, it did just that upon release in 1998. As a movie though, it comes up way short. I keep returning to a quote Jeff Daniels - playing another of Richard's ex-lovers - uses to describe Richard's award-winning book to Clarissa. He says, "The whole thing seems to go on for an eternity. Nothing happens. Then wham!" Well, Daniels finishes his review with a detail I'll leave out of mine, to retain some mystery. But even without the coda, his statement describes Hours to a tee.

Editor's Note: You are encouraged to ignore Sean O'Connell's review (see the "Respectfully Yours" redux at right) and check out The Hours on DVD. Fans will eat up the hours (no pun intended) of extras, including four featurettes (the insight into Philip Glass's masterful score is particularly interesting) and two commentary tracks -- one from the three acclaimed actresses and one from Daldry and novelist Michael Cunningham.

So what time is it there?



The Hours

Facts and Figures

Run time: 114 mins

In Theaters: Friday 14th February 2003

Box Office USA: $41.5M

Box Office Worldwide: $108.8M

Budget: $25M

Distributed by: Miramax Films

Production compaines: Miramax Films, Scott Rudin Productions

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Fresh: 150 Rotten: 36

IMDB: 7.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Virginia Woolf, as Laura Brown, as Clarissa Vaughan, as Leonard Woolf, as Vanessa Bell, George Loftus as Quentin Bell, Charley Ramm as Julian Bell, Sophie Wyburd as Angelica Bell, as Lottie Hope, as Nelly Boxall, as Ralph Partridge, as Doctor, John C. Reilly as Dan Brown, as Richie, as Kitty, as Richard Brown, as Sally Lester, as Julia Vaughan, as Louis Waters

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Colossal Movie Review

Colossal Movie Review

It's rare to find a movie that so defiantly refuses to be put into a...

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Movie Review

It's unlikely that Guy Ritchie could make a boring movie if he wanted to. This...

Snatched Movie Review

Snatched Movie Review

It doesn't really matter that the script for this lively action-comedy is paper thin: teaming...

Jawbone Movie Review

Jawbone Movie Review

Boxing movies aren't usually this thoughtful. Sure, there are plenty of punchy moments in the...

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Whisky Galore! Movie Review

Scottish filmmaker Gillies MacKinnon (Hideous Kinky) remakes the 1949 Ealing comedy classic, although it's difficult...

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Master filmmaker Ridley Scott is back to continue the story 10 years after the events...

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

The Journey (2017) Movie Review

A fictionalised account of real events, this drama is reminiscent of Peter Morgan's work in...

Advertisement
Sleepless Movie Review

Sleepless Movie Review

In remaking the 2011 French thriller Sleepless Night, the filmmakers have dumbed down both the...

Unlocked Movie Review

Unlocked Movie Review

By injecting a steady sense of fun, this slick but mindless action thriller both holds...

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

Lady Macbeth Movie Review

A seriously impressive feature directing debut with a star-making central performance, this period British drama...

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Movie Review

It was never going to be easy to match the impact of 2014's Guardians of...

The Promise Movie Review

The Promise Movie Review

The director of Hotel Rwanda, Terry George, turns to another humanitarian horror: the systematic murder...

Their Finest Movie Review

Their Finest Movie Review

Skilfully written, directed and acted, this offbeat British period film tells a story that catches...

Unforgettable Movie Review

Unforgettable Movie Review

With heavy echoes of trashy thrillers like Fatal Attraction, this movie overcomes its painfully simplistic...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.