Starring: Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Toni Collette, Claire Danes, Ed Harris, Allison Janney, John C. Reilly, Eileen Atkins, Stephen Dillane
Director: Stephen Daldry
Screenwriter: David Hare
As I was reading Virginia Woolf’s “Miss Dalloway” I remembered about “The Hours”, the great movie about the life and mental illness of the troubled author, played by Nicole Kidman, but combined with glimpses of the lives of other two suicidal women: a housewife of the 1950’s (Laura – Julianne Moore) and a contemporary embodiment of Miss Dalloway herself (Clarissa – Meryl Streep). Three different times, three different people, tragic similarities.
The main element these women share, however, is the superlative acting. The prosthetic nose was a source of much hype when it was announced that Nicole Kidman, known for her pretty girl image (it was the beginning of the ’00, little did anybody know that in a matter of almost 5 years, “the pretty girls” will be represented by moron blondes barely out of their teens with one or more addiction problems and absolutely no discernable talent like Mischa Barton and Kidman will become acting royalty), would play Virginia Wolf in the adaptation of Michael Cunningham’s Pulitzer Prize-winning 1998 novel. Many thought she would not be up for the task. I, for example, did not consider her a cardboard actress, but I also would have never nominated her as a great one either. She seemed bland and lifeless, a condition that she and Gwyneth Paltrow turned into a career. But she is wonderful here, to my surprise, and she manages to speak volumes from underneath the plastic appendix. Julianne Moore plays the mother of one (Jack Rovello) and she is heartbreaking as she struggles with depression and unhappiness, all while trying to pull herself together. The scenes between her and her son are wonderfully acted and perfectly directed. Last but not least, Meryl Streep, a force in the drama department and everywhere else, is a modern New Yorker facing a horrible picture – the one of her former lover slowly dying of AIDS. She makes portraying strength and pain and sadness so effortless that she is automatically an inspiration for every young actress, but they do not imagine how much hard work and talent is required to be credible and part of the character while not overbearing or exaggerated (recently, Jessica Biel compared herself with Streep and Blanchett and she was quoted saying that the main difference between her and these two superlative actresses is her beauty that seems to get in the way of her getting great parts. Right.)
There is a slight feeling of surreal throughout the passing of “The Hours”. It seems that everything is happening in slow motion, that nobody is in a hurry, and because of the time changing and as the stories are progressing, the viewer is tightly wrapped into a web of various emotions, ranging from anger, depression, fear to peace, happiness and courage. It reminds us that even though the pain and solitude may seem too much to bear at times, it is our own incapacity to communicate and to change the aspects of our lives that hurt us that ultimately wears us down. And just like “Volver”, another personal favorite, it shows the sides of strong yet fragile women, women who can break the law – even kill – and be ahead of their times attracting unwanted attention and judgments, but cannot stand loneliness. Women that have the courage to move mountains for their loved ones but have no words for the pain inside them, leaving it to rot away until there is nothing left. Women that have so much to give but seem afraid of receiving, because they are not satisfied with “something”, they want “everything”.
It was clear from the literary preciousness of the script and the complex themes that this movie was aiming for the Oscars. It was also obvious that the “Bridget Jones” – ing of Nicole Kidman had the same purpose. But this does not change the high quality of this movie nor does it minimize it’s cast superb work. “The Hours” is one of the few recent fine movies.