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
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.