Review by Michael Jacobson
Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep, Ed Harris, John C. Reilly,
Stephen Dillane, Allison Janney, Miranda Richardson, Claire Danes, Toni Collette
Director: Stephen Daldry
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.0, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 114 Minutes
Release Date: June 24, 2003
woman's whole life in a single day…just one day.
And in that day, her whole life…”
you finally see a movie and it not only meets but exceeds all of your expectations,
that's about as perfect a filmgoing experience as you can ask for.
The Hours was one of the most talked about, critically lauded and
awarded films of last year, yet nothing you've heard about it will actually
prepare you for the experience of seeing it with your own eyes.
complex, but never confusing, subtle, yet emotionally pure, and best of all,
always surprising. It reminds me of
two other films I love a great deal: Magnolia,
in how it weaves separate stories that seem to connect only because of
strange and possibly inexplicable coincidences, and Memento, in that once
the picture ends, you're ready to go back through it again and pick up the
bread crumbs you know you probably missed.
it takes on a unique life of its own. There
are three different stories set in three different time periods and focused on
three different women, but there is first and foremost a universal connector in
the novel Mrs. Dalloway. In the 1920s, Virginia Woolf (Kidman, in her Oscar and
Golden Globe winning performance) is writing it.
In the 50s, Laura Brown (Moore) is reading it. In our modern time, Clarissa Vaughan (Streep) is living it.
the years between us…”
a deliciously rich and admittedly frustrating novel with no chapters that
follows a day in the life of a woman as she prepares for and throws a party.
On the outside, she's the perfect hostess, but on the inside, she's a
sad and lonely soul. Her creator,
Ms. Woolf, was a manic depressive in the days before medicines existed to combat
such a disorder. She attempted
suicide three times, and was successful the third.
She led two lives: in her healthy state, she was a determined feminist
and a brilliant writer. In her
depressed times, she was an emotional wreck ready to implode.
also leads two lives. On the
surface, she's a typical 50s housewife and mother.
Her husband Dan (Reilly) is beaming and loving, and living his version of
the American dream, never guessing at the threat to his family's happiness
lurking underneath the surface. As
we spend this day with Laura and her small son, which mostly entails attempts to
prepare for her husband's birthday, we feel more and more that something
isn't right with her.
of course, Clarissa has a double life of her own. Like Mrs. Dalloway, she's preparing the perfect party, but
for her celebrated poet ex-husband, Richard (Harris), who is also dying of AIDS.
Over the course of her day, we will learn not only about their history
together and apart, but the heartbreak simmering just underneath her surface as
In good faith, I can't go into more story detail, as much as I so want to discuss it. As I mentioned, this is a film that surprises. There are more than just coincidences and a novel that connect these women across the decades. On the surface, each woman hides deep pains, explore or entertain unusual relationships, and worry that they cause the men in their lives more sorrow than happiness. But there's much more at work here, and the subtle layering of emotions earns our investments. This is one of the most quietly and profoundly moving pictures I've seen in some time.
Cunningham's Pulitzer Prize winning novel was realized with intelligence,
clarity and courage by director Stephen Daldry, but he was greatly aided by an
absolute dream of a cast. Nicole
Kidman, Julianne Moore and Meryl Streep are individually A-list actresses that
are capable of carrying a film like this alone; put them together, and there is
magic even greater that the sum of the incredible parts.
Each has done remarkable work in the past, and will do so again, but
I'll wager that The Hours will always remain a specifically singular
achievement in all of their careers.
in a “woman's” story, there is even a rich pool of male supporting talent
at work here. John C. Reilly and
Stephen Dillane are pitch perfect as differently devoted husbands, but even more
noteworthy is Ed Harris, looking surprisingly weak and sickly, and delivering
one of his finest performances. And
I haven't even touched upon the appearances of Claire Danes, Toni Collette,
Jeff Daniels, Allison Janney and Miranda Richardson. For a relatively low-budgeted film, that makes up an ensemble
that's worth its weight in gold.
put, I can't recommend this film strongly enough. It's the rare movie that's both visceral and literal,
both cinematic and literary, both supremely intelligent and sincerely emotional.
It's no by-the-numbers tearjerker, but a rich and compelling and
stylistically daring character study of three women in three progressively
different times facing similar emotional crises over the course of a single day
and getting through them each according to whatever strengths and resources
film has a visual style that reflects upon its dark undercurrents with a certain
amount of dimness, which would seem to make for a problem in transferring to
DVD. Yet this anamorphic offering
from Paramount not only meets the challenge, it obliterates it.
Despite restricted lighting making for extra shadows and darkness, none
of the images suffer from grain, break-up or murkiness.
Details are crisp and clean and sharp throughout, and colors even come
across with integrity despite the frequently withheld light.
It's a serviceably stylistic touch, and in this case, it brings out the
best in the DVD medium.
soundtrack features no subwoofer signal, but given the dialogue oriented nature
of the picture, it isn't missed. The
music and emotionally potent scenes are what brings out the dynamic range in the
audio, and a couple of river sequences help open up the front and rear stages a
little more. A clean, clear
listening experience with no noticeable flaws.
of our most remarkable actresses come together for a dream commentary track on
this DVD. Nicole Kidman, Julianne
Moore and Meryl Streep, recorded separately but edited together seamlessly,
offer their thoughts on the story, their characters, and more.
Despite a few gaps here and there, this kind of track is a rare
opportunity for movie lovers.
a more narratively focused commentary, there is a second one featuring director
Stephen Daldry and novelist Michael Cunningham. Daldry also offers a film introduction. Four production featurettes respectively focus on the three
main actresses, Virginia Woolf herself, the terrific music by Philip Glass, and
a conversation with both Cunningham and Oscar nominated screenwriter David Hare.
out is a trailer and previews for other Paramount titles.