The Hours (2002)
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Review Date: January 23, 2003
Director: Stephen Daldry
Writer: David Hare
Producers: Scott Rudin, Robert Fox
Meryl Streep as Clarissa Vaughan
Nicole Kidman as Virginia Woolf
Julianne Moore as Laura Brown
This film trails the lives of three women living in different times as each one deals with issues of depression, feelings of emptiness and thoughts of despair. It ain't DUDE, WHERE'S MY CAR, boys and girls. While the entire picture only takes place over one day, it seesaws between the stories as stronger connections and deeper meanings come to fro in each of these ladies' lives.
Strangely enough, the one film that came to my mind after watching this one was FIGHT CLUB! Not that you should go into this picture expecting Nicole Kidman to be kicking that Streep ass, while Julianne Moore coordinates "Project Disorder" or something, but just as AMERICAN BEAUTY booted many stagnant baby-boomers in the bum and David Fincher's opus crunched my balls to the walls, along with many other young male upstarts, THE HOURS concentrates on some of the fairer sex's qualms, insecurities and lessons from life, and presents it all in a very malleable package, seen from the point of view of three different women in three different time periods. Of course, several parallels also pass through the stories as each woman struggles with her own reasons for being, her own identity in a world which prepares women for one thing, yet offers them many others, and their respective loves (it also demonstrates that as different as the time periods may be, human beings' issues generally remain the same). The film does have an impending feeling of doom about it though. Its characters are morose, sad and moping around most of the time, while its score, whilst gratifying, creates a sense of unsure anticipation from scene to scene (reminiscent of MAGNOLIA). And yet, even though I felt a little lost at first, with several scenes simply not meaning much, I have to admit that I did eventually find myself caught up in the dark spirit of the film's deeper message, the basis of which any sex should be able to relate. Life is important, complacency leads to indifference and cherishing one's existence is key. Sound existential? Well, it most certainly is.

Now I don't consider myself the dullest knife in the drawer, but even I could "feel" certain scenes and connections meaning so much more than I could fully grasp at the moment (mucho subtext). In fact, this is yet another one of those movies for which a second or third viewing would most certainly concretize matters. Will women relate to the film more than men? Most certainly. The lady friend who joined me for this session was invigorated enough after the film (and the traditional nacho huddle immediately thereafter...natch!) to make a little detour by the bookstore to purchase a copy of Virginia Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway". As for me, the man that I am, I was engaged for the most part and particularly impressed with the directing, especially in terms of how the scenes would transition one to another, while no one story ever felt more important than the last. I also appreciated the acting, all of which was top-notch, as well as the "tiny" surprise at the end, which brought about an even deeper significance to it all (vague enough for you?). Now I'm not exactly sure if Kidman deserves a Best Actress of the Year Award for her showing here (although her make-up job was definitely brilliant), but Meryl Streep did impress me for once, while Moore was good, but to be honest...too reminiscent of her many other such "typical" roles (perhaps playing two depressive 1950s housewives in one year was a tad much, girl). And despite most of the men being relegated to secondary roles as bumbleheads (John C. Reilly), AIDS victims (Ed Harris) or homosexuals (Jeff Daniels), I did enjoy their performances as well, especially Harris, who was the only character for whom I actually cared by the end (I thought Moore's character was actually quite selfish).

The film might also disperse feelings of depression amongst some, since it drives melancholy throughout ("misery loves company") and habitually refers to suicide as well. I don't usually remember quotes from films either, but there were a handful of powerful ones here, including "Sometimes a visionary has to die in order for others to value life", "I had death, but I chose life" and my personal favorite "You cannot find peace, by avoiding life". They might actually not mean anything "out of context" here, but for those who have seen/will see the movie, there you go. The film's also sprinkled with some definite pretense, a number of "women kissing other women" scenes (lesbian undertones or a deeper psychological meaning...you decide!) and feminism. As a "layman", I didn't really get emotionally involved with any of the characters (except Harris), despite them being well-developed, but did enjoy spending two hours alongside them (then again, I'm a pretty messed up person myself). Perhaps the film was trying to say a little too much with itself and requires a greater literate mind to fully appreciate, but all in all, I did enjoy its deeper connections, loved its construction, with one story being told while another seemed to play off it and ultimately, appreciated its humanistic message about life, its fragility and the importance of living one to its fullest. This isn't the "happy pill" that will suddenly have you seeing your life through rose-colored glasses, but it will surely resonate with most women and provide them with even more reasons to diss our silly asses. Just kidding. Actually, it's definite food for thought for anyone who digs on existential narrative and adult, mannered, stylized, well-acted character pieces.
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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