To watch “The Hours” is to understand the beauty of a novel-into-film adaptation. Adapted from a Pulitzer-winning novel of the same title by Michael Cunningham, “The Hours” received positive reviews and acclaims from critics and awards, especially for its exceptional script and poignant performances by the leading actresses. This is no ordinary drama; this is a multi-layered film wrapped in a different way—it’s even different from other multi-plot films like “Magnolia” or “21 Grams”, I noticed. I also have to admit that for me, “The Hours” is quite heavy and hard to digest, but lucky that after reading the ending credit, the whole plot (and greatness) of this film unravel.
We will be introduced with a story that scopes three generations of women. First, 1920s, Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman) was a writer who struggled for a mental disorder she suffered. She wrote a book called “Mrs. Dalloway”, and in that book, she retold the story of her life and sorrow using a fictional character named Mrs. Dalloway as a representation of herself. Second, 1950s, Julia Brown (Julianne Moore) read Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway” and seemed to be very influenced by it, for its many similarities to her unhappy marriage. Third, 2001, Clarissa Vaughan (Meryl Streep), described as the embodiment of character Mrs. Dalloway in real life, is a lesbian currently preparing a party for her ex as well as an AIDS sufferer, Richard (Ed Harris).
At first I honestly don’t really understand what “The Hours” is all about—I don’t even understand what the title actually means. At the first glance, it is apparent to say that we are gonna run into three different stories in every step. But, how they are connected to each others was still a question—moreover if you don’t remember the names of the characters well. After we are all set on the same platform of storytelling—thanks to the fast editing in the first minutes—every storyline walks on its own path.
Every single one of storylines has its own variation, but the topic is still the same: about how these women overcame the unhappiness they hid from their surroundings—spouses, kids, or friends. This is about how women look confident for the sake of those who love them, although they feel so terrible inside. This is about how they decide what is best for their life. This somehow leads to a pay-off to the structure of normal plots where we can clearly see conflicts and climaxes, because the script of “The Hours”—which is ingeniously crafted by David Hare and finely executed by Stephen Daldry—was kept floating without obvious points of where things are going complicated and resolved.
That is why, observed from the plot structure, I found that it is hard to compile the three stories of the three women into one big form. Therefore, I guess, the three can only be merged using the idea, or the context, of the story: hidden insecurities. This is the kind of film you can not easily retell; you can only understand it by watching it. This is why for some, including me, it is quite hard to understand because it did not simply put forward events and occurrences—it described emotion. You can only feel the emptiness transferred by these three seemingly-happy women in their own medium, although finally the book “Mrs. Dalloway” became lesser than a key factor I presumed before.
And while I have spent three paragraphs to talk about the story alone, I might have to discuss too many about the terrific performances by the three leading actresses in such a short paragraph. But, in brief, Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, and Meryl Streep elaborated so finely. They have different situations and even outlooks to transfer one similar emotion to viewers, and they perfectly did that. One thing for sure is that they gave the same quality (you know, Nicole Kidman and Julianne Moore were on the same level of acting quality with Meryl Streep) with adequate amount of duration. Different storylines had them nearly never be on the same scene (except the one near the ending), however, although finally it makes their own characters clearly distinguishable to each other. Notice their mimics, their dialogues, and their way to release their natural emotions. Flawless.
“The Hours” is one of the modern approaches that redefine films as more than just a means of storytelling. Stephen Daldry’s sharp directorial work delivers David Hare’s meticulous writing—from intelligently written novel of Michael Cunningham—in a way that is quite hard to accept at first, but unforgettable at last. I think if you are really into expanding your insight about movies, you should watch this one. I was either unprepared or uneducated to cover “The Hours” the way it supposed to (and the deep philosophy it transfers), but it surely gives me a new experience of movie-watching.
▲ Bold performances by the actresses, multi-layered stories plotted in an interesting fashion
▼ Hard to digest for mainstream viewers
THE HOURS | COUNTRY USA YEAR 2002 RATING Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements, some disturbing images and brief language RUNTIME 114 min GENRE Drama CAST Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Ed Harris, Toni Collette WRITER Michael Cunningham (novel), David Hare (screenplay) DIRECTOR Stephen Daldry MORE INFO