The Hours - Review
I urge you to try and read Mrs. Dalloway before you watch The Hours. More than the novel of the same name (of which the movie is quite the direct adaptation), Mrs Dalloway gives you an in-depth insight into Woolf’s style of writing and the intricacies of the character of Clarissa Dalloway – on whom the three characters in the film are based. The Hours celebrates complexity and inquiry. It can leave you gloomy and brimming with existential questions. Be warned, but don’t miss the film – it’s an experience I highly recommend.
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In 1941, Sussex, England, celebrated feminist author Virginia Woolf puts rocks in her pockets and drowns herself in a river. Of the many floating speculations, the largely accepted reason for this suicide was Woolf’s much talked about paranoia. Her style and her works have been widely adapted and made into theatrical plays and feature films – yet, only one such film manages to capture the exact concoction of feminism, fiction and bizarre eccentricity that was Virginia Woolf – The Hours.
The movie, based on the novel of the same name by Michael Cunningham, is based on three women who are connected by the segregated souls of a character from Woolf’s novel Mrs. Dalloway – Clarissa Dalloway. The film is also divided into three time zones. In 2002, there is Clarissa Vaughan (played by Meryl Streep), a New Yorker who prepares a party for her AIDS-stricken friend Richard (Ed Harris). In 1950s Los Angeles there is Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) who is pregnant and vastly dissatisfied in her marriage. Then there is Woolf herself (played by Nichole Kidman), in the 1920s in England, and we see her struggling with her depression and mental paranoia.
All three characters are connected – like three lost souls swimming in a fish bowl. They are different aspects of the one character in Woolf’s novel. Clarissa Dalloway is an over-analytical, submissive, bi-curious, complex woman and these aspects have been stripped into three vital characters. Moore, Streep and Kidman adapt to their cultural and social time zones perfectly and yet stay true to their complexity, because The Hours is a complex film. It’s a film that delves deep into the psyche of these these characters and their battle with their complicated selves.
Parallel narratives guide the film, while we get a strong whiff of every character’s thought processes and questions. It’s a technique that Woolf was famous for – stream of consciousness – the ability to write freely as the character thinks. Director Stephen Daldry adapts this technique well, as you feel you are visually entering the minds of these three women, carefully observing their every thought and every dilapidated query. The Hours is essentially a celebration of complexity of thought. You may not be going in any direction, plot-wise, with the film. You will just find yourself walking around in circles, dissecting every thought-bubble that the film tries to present to you.
The most important thing that The Hours does is make you question. The kind of spooky questioning that lets you lie in bed, stare at the ceiling and just think – What is acceptable behavior and what is not? The existential question that rides all our backs – what is life about? What am I doing with mine? More than that, the film offers you three different approaches to sexuality, suicide, depression and three different versions of the same women who have those approaches.
The DVD of The Hours has some interesting features: An audio commentary by Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, and Nicole Kidman and 4 Featurettes: Three Women, The Mind and Times of Virginia Woolf, The Music of The Hours, The Lives of Mrs. Dalloway. All four featurrettes are small and explanatory. It provides as a great post-movie viewing as it puts a lot of things into perspective if you haven’t read Mrs Dalloway or The Hours.
What makes The Hours a must watch, over the novel, are the performances. Kidman is absolutely engrossing, as Virgina Woolf (you might not even recognize her with her nose being drastically tampered with), playing the desolate, complex part. I would go ahead and say she is the best performer in the film, even ahead of Streep, who looks like she got up from her sleep to play this part. Streepis effortless and extremely likeable – a concrete emotion that Clarissa Dalloway doesn’t draw. Julianne Moore looks her demure and confused part.
Watch The Hours most certainly not for entertainment, but for the deep and difficult questioning of those very human emotions we take for granted.
This review is by guest reviewer Swetha Ramakrishnan. Swetha Ramakrishnan is currently living and working in Mumbai. She's a self-confessed film enthusiast and can most likely be found talking to anyone and everyone about popular cinema and her love for SRK. Swetha Ramakrishnan also blogs at http://swetharamakrishnan.blogspot.com/.
- Violence: None
- Language: Varies between British, old-American and current-day english
- Nudity & Sexual content: None
- Concept: Indepth analysis of 3 women, of three different time zones and places, who are based on one character
- General Look and Feel: slow, grey and speculative
The Hours - Movie Details
- Official Sites: Website
- Banner: Paramount Pictures, Miramax Films, Scott Rudin Productions
- Producer: Robert Fox, Scott Rudin
- Director: Stephen Daldry
- Lead Cast: Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore
- Story: Based on Novel written by Michael Cunningham
- Screenplay: David Hare
- Editor: Peter Boyle
- Music Director: Philip Glass
- Costume Designer: Ann Roth
- Art Direction: Nick Palmer
- Running time: 114 minutes
- Reviewer: Swetha Ramakrishnan
- Language: English
- Country: UK, USA
- Genres: Philosophy
The Hours - Trailer
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