THE HOURS (2002) 

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Nicole Kidman
Julianne Moore
Meryl Streep
Stephen Dillane
Ed Harris
John C. Reilly
Miranda Richardson
Jeff Daniels
Jack Rovello
Toni Collette
Claire Danes

Stephen Daldry




Time: 114 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Drama

Won Academy Award for Best Actress (Kidman). Nominations for Best Picture, Director, Supporting Actor (Harris), Supporting Actress (Moore), Editing, Costume, Score and Adapted Screenplay.

THE HOURS is a film that has all the makings of a first-rate cinematic treat, except an overly compelling story. Streep, Kidman and Moore mesmerize, yet their tales of woe and disillusionment left me less moved than I anticipated. I was certainly impressed by the piece, but there's something missing I just can't put my finger on. Something that keeps me from claiming it as "the best picture of the year." We encounter Virginia Woolf (Kidman), Clarissa Vaughn (Streep) and Laura Brown (Moore) on the one day where the direction of their lives changes forever. They are separated by time, but united in their inability to accept the paths their lives have taken. Each is suffocating under the pressures of the world around them, trying to hide behind masks of contentment and play the roles expected of them. Daldry masterfully interweaves their lives together, creating a world where they coexist in their troubles and eventually find salvation in each other.

Virginia is forced, due to mental illness to live in the country away from London and the society she so loves. To help fill the time, she begins writing "Mrs. Dalloway", a novel about one day in the life of an upper class woman who's throwing a party for a friend. Laura Brown is a pregnant 50s housewife trying, with the help of her young son, to do something special for her husband's birthday. Despite her best efforts, nothing turns out right, so she escapes into her latest read, "Mrs. Dalloway." Clarissa Vaughn is a modern day book editor who, like Mrs. Dalloway, is preparing for a party. In her case, for an old lover, who's an award-winning poet dying of aids. Richard (Harris) loves Clarissa, but wants nothing to do with the event. He can no longer face what could be many painful hours before his death and wants to be left alone. Clarissa can't face the idea of life without him and the precious memories his presence evokes in her. She believes that if he makes it to the party, he'll see how good life can still be and continue to fight. She will also be able to continue pretending that he's not going to die.

"That is what we do. That is what people do. They stay alive for each other."

As the hours of this day tick by, it becomes apparent to each of the women how precious life is and how important the part they play in the world. Virginia gives voice to her troubles by writing them out on the page. Laura comes to the realization that no matter how hard she tries, she's never going to be happy in the role of wife and mother. Clarissa comes to understand the prison her memories of happiness have become. Eventually, Virginia and Laura take matters into their own hands, making decision that will destroy the lives of their loved ones, but free them from their own demons. Unable to free herself, Clarissa is forced by Richard into re-examining the relationships and direction her life has taken over the last few decades.

This is an intelligent, delicate, thought-provoking film that makes one honestly consider one's own path in life. How many of us do what's expected, squelching our own desires in order to be accepted by society? What toll does that take on our soul and psyche? Our lives are made up of thousands of hours, some spent happily, others in despair. Though life has its' own way of impeding on one's decisions, ultimately we do have the choice on how we spend our time here and, if we wish, when to end it. Though intense and somewhat depressing, THE HOURS does end on a tiny note of hope. Their lives may not have been a bed of roses, but they made the most with the hands they were dealt. Some of their choices would not win them popularity contests, but they showed the inner strength these women possessed.

Daldry and his talented cast bring the many characters and themes brilliantly to life. This is a film without much dialogue or action, yet it has a great deal to say. The pain, indecision, love, resentment and desperation are written at certain points across all three actresses faces. Who needs words when we have such beautiful visages torn between so many emotions? The supporting cast, especially Harris, Daniels, Collette and Rovello, brings much to the table as well. Their parts are small, but pivotal to the various stories. Rovello is extremely good as Laura Brown's young son, his deep brown eyes reflecting the loneliness and desperation of his mother. Lest you think you can hide your true emotions from your kids, their scenes together prove otherwise. His performance will break your heart. THE HOURS is certainly not a film everyone will enjoy. It's a slow, intimate character piece that I'm hard-pressed to call entertainment. It is, however, a film filled with touching performances and a deep message that will perhaps help you, just a bit, to appreciate your life more.

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