Opens Fri Jan 17
The Hours is a nice package of arts and literature: a film based on a book that's based on a book. Michael Cunningham wrote The Hours, offering various reinterpretations of Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway, one of which features Woolf as she's writing the book and approaching suicide.
Director Stephen Daldry does a remarkable job of translating the Woolfian tone into cinema. In both mediums, elaborate symbolic value is found in the minute, meaningless details of ordinary life. To some, this is enrapturing, although some people find it tedious. The score by Philip Glass is what you'd expect, but it works, creating tension for a film in which very little actually happens.
Then there's the nose. Nicole Kidman wears a prosthesis on her face to look more like Woolf, and in the first scene there are obvious seams running down the sides of her nose. They apparently fired the makeup artist on the spot, because after the initial blooper, it practically goes away. Between Kidman uncharacteristically looking like a dog and doing a rad acting job, it becomes easier to ignore.
The film occupies itself with splicing together the activities of depressed sorta-lesbians played by Kidman, Meryl Streep, and Julianne Moore, all of whom are preparing some type of get-together. Kidman (Woolf) pensively awaits the visit of her sister, bored and under-stimulated by her life in the country. Streep is a modern go-getter, dashing around planning a party for her dying friend, and Moore is hypnotic as a listless housewife trying to make her husband a birthday cake.
The only real acting flop is Ed Harris, who terribly over-emotes his role as an award-winning poet dying of AIDS. It's not entirely his fault, however, since this clichéd pathetic figure always comes off as an easy, cheap shot for sympathy.
Ultimately, though, The Hours is an expertly made film, linking one day in the lives of three women in three separate points of history, managing to be horribly depressing and exquisitely comforting.