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THE HOURS (2002)
"The Hours" is a contemporary expansion of Virginia Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway" and its personal effect on its tragic author, an equally tragic fan two decades later, and a woman nearly half a century later whose uncanny likeness to the protagonist of the novel is the link that connects all three women separated by several decades each.
Directed by: Stephen Daldry. Written by: Michael Cunningham (novel) and David Hare (screenplay).
Tagline: From pen and paper to beyond…
Rated PG13 for some disturbing images and language, and mature thematic elements.
"The Hours" is a brilliantly tight-woven mosaic of three stories told in tandem. The first is of the intriguingly tragic life of renowned authoress Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman) and her struggle with sanity, authorship, marriage, and an attempt at a happy life.
With her biographical story unfolding in the beginning of the twentieth century, the film jumps twenty years later where, in the 1950's, and avid fan by the name of Laura Brown (Julieanne Moore) clings to her famed novel "Mrs. Dalloway" as her only hope at sanity. Despite her lovable husband Dan (John C. Reilly) and her adorable son Richie (Jack Rovello), Laura can seem to cope with only the task of reading her book and enduring her pregnancy as she undergoes the daily battle of fighting a depression that threatens to pull her under, much like the author of her favorite novel.
Flash forward nearly fifty years where a postmodern high society woman by the name of Clarissa Vaughan dedicates her life to her relationship with her girlfriend Sally, taking care of who was once 'Mr. Right' Richard Brown (Ed Harris), and giving lavish parties in honor of everything under the sun; thus earning her the nickname of "Mrs. Dalloway".
As each story unfolds they begin to unravel the blanket so to speak, exposing the thread by which all three stories are interconnected. Desperately Virginia struggles to face life as the daily grind of incessant care taking and doting represses her liberty to join in the hustle bustle of city life and society. Her overprotective husband Leonard Woolf (Stephen Dillane) refuses to let Virginia out of his sight, and thus it could be argued, that his love was the very thing that ailed her; suffocating her of her own spirit and will to live.
Meanwhile Laura undertakes the daunting task of baking a cake, in vain. Overwhelmed by even the smallest requirement, Laura slips tragically into a depressive state that has her walking the thin line between sanity and death. Ready to abandon her loving husband and her adorable son, she chooses to escape, with an unforgivable decision that haunts Richard even into the final hours of his ill-fated adulthood.
Thus Richard Brown is none other than the Aids stricken man whose once romantic relationship with Clarissa Vaughan struck a chord with the woman who daily dotes on his failing health. With Clarissa’s actions resonating with the protagonist of his mother’s favorite novel "Mrs. Dalloway", Richard quickly takes a liking to assigning the nickname to Clarissa, half in complement, half in ironic insult. Feeling as if her life is trivialized, her attempts to give parties to drown out the silence of her heart brazenly called out, Clarissa only comes to understand her nickname in the final hours of Richard’s life; a life and talent which is to be the latest focus for Clarissa’s next party.
As the hours pass by each of the female protagonists comes closer to death, be it theirs or a companions. Slowly, sadly, somberly, time flies by and their lives come to a tragic end. The film concludes with Virginia Woolf's third and final suicide attempt whereby she takes her life in a river; the cruel irony being of course that Virginia was an avid swimmer whose tragic death was a cruel act of self-punishment. Clarissa comes face to face with Richard's source of pain, his mother, Laura Brown. A perspective-altering discussion leaves Clarissa in stupefied contemplation, and Laura Brown tragically resentful of her decisions in life.
“The Hours” is a touching and painfully realistic portrait of three women and their struggles in the pursuit of happiness. From the perspective of the writer, the reader, and the manifested character, "The Hours" is a brilliantly unique take on Virginia Woolf's masterpiece. Watching the story unfold is a somber treat that rings with as much irony as the story itself. As the hours of the film pass for the viewer, so too does the hours of the characters’ lives stand to change both theirs and the audiences perspective on certain issues of happiness, death, and the meaning of life. There is a tangibly melancholic canvass painted before audiences that so closely knit three distinct lives in three equally distinct generations that help the stories feel somehow entirely alike and yet altogether dissimilar. The continuities of this film are brilliant, original, ornate, and intricately detailed. Moreover, though seemingly too spectacular, the plot is entirely reasonable, and the irony stands in the possibility for the reality of the storyline.
With Virginia Woolf as an idol of artistic mastery, "The Hours" also painfully displays the tenuous sanity of the talented woman that as much behooved her work as it did kill her in the end. Nicole Kidman is amazing in her role as the vulnerable Woolf, for which she won the Oscar for Best Actress. Meryl Streep is as sincere and splendidly believable as ever with her role of Clarissa, and Julieanne Moore’s haunting performance echoes of the tragic fragility of her character in "Magnolia" (1997). Ed Harris did a fantastic job portraying the grief-stricken Richard Brown, and Stephen Dillane was astute in his portrayal of the over-protective yet oppressively loving Leonard Woolf.
"The Hours" is an ornate drama that won’t suit the palate of everyone. But with an Oscar under its belt, along with 30 other film critic awards and 57 nominations, "The Hours" is definitely a memorable film worth taking note of.
Nicole Kidman plays Virginia Woolf, the brilliant yet psychologically tortured, talented yet doubt-stricken, open-minded and determined yet fragile woman and prolific author of the renowned book, "Mrs. Dalloway".
Meryl Streep plays Clarissa Vaughan, AKA "Mrs. Dalloway", a postmodern twenty-first century New York woman whose main goal in life is to entertain and indulge others while she represses herself from the fears and emotions the fatally ill Richard, the man whom she could have married, but chose to indebt her life to caretaker instead.
Julie Anne Moore plays Laura Brown, a 1950's woman who, despairing, clings to her favorite novel "Mrs. Dalloway" for hope. Ultimately, however, her attempts to remain sane provoke her to make drastic decisions that have long standing repercussion on her family.
Ed Harris plays the matured Richard Brown who has dedicated his life to the craft of writing whereby he hopes to gain some understanding to his mother’s tragic decision as a child through the medium of fiction prose and poetry.
Stephen Dillane plays Leonard Woolf, the over-protective yet loving husband of Virginia Woolf, whose desperate attempts to secure Virginia’s health and happiness are done contrarily in vain.
John C. Reilly plays Dan Brown, the overwhelmingly loving and sincerely affectionate husband of Laura Brown, whose overzealous passion for Laura is innocently more stifling than endearing for the fragile woman.