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The Hours

March 15, 2013

The Hours (2002)
Director: Stephen Daldry
Actors: Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman

the-hours.jpg (274×184)

Synopsis: Over the course of one day, three women, in three different eras, suffer profound psychological and spiritual jolts….

Review: Stephen Daldry’s pulverising, morbid dirge about the kindred spiritual crises afflicting three women across three different time periods, has its champions and devotees, but I’ve never been one of them. The film is exceedingly literary and theatrical – unsurprising given its various sources from Virginia Woolf’s novel ‘Mrs Dalloway’ itself, to Michael Cunningham’s ‘The Hours’ on which the film is based, and then having playwright, David Hare, and theatre director, Stephen Daldry, see it onto the big screen. The problem with this overt literariness is that it makes The Hours a very pleading work; the film wants you to “get it” at every single point of its discourse, and Daldry plays in to the tripartite structure of the premise too much by continually over-demonstrating the joint experiences that these woman are going through (they all wake up, they all get or make some flowers, they all are in a sense unhappy, and their stories conclude with near or actual brushes with mortality).

Philip Glass’ piano score, though extremely evocative and distinctive, seems a misstep too, as it embellishes the film’s desire to bash you over the head with its emotional content and the need for us to grasp the narrative subtext at every opportunity. The performances are a mixed bag too. I’m slightly baffled as to why Nicole Kidman’s turn received most of the acclaim, as it’s by far the weakest of the three. Kidman’s prosthetic nose is an unnecessary and very obfuscatory conceit, and at times I feel Kidman struggles with her diction and to suggest the profound distress beneath Woolf’s veneer. Meryl Streep is her usual lively, physically demonstrative self – though that’s in keeping with her character Clarissa’s endeavours to suppress her dark melancholy – yet it’s Julianne Moore who totally steals the picture with the film’s one true, genuine portrayal of repression and despair. (March 2013)

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