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The Hours Movie Review

  • Holly McClure Movie Reviewer
  • 2002 12 Dec
  • COMMENTS
<i>The Hours</i> Movie Review

Genre:  Drama, Romance

Rating:  PG-13 (for mature thematic elements, some disturbing images and brief language)

Release Date:  December 27, 2002 (NY, LA; wide release:  January 17, 2003)

Actors:  Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep, Allison Janney, Ed Harris, Claire Danes, Toni Collette, Eileen Atkins, Stephen Dillane, Charley Ramm, John C. Reilly, Miranda Richardson

Director: Stephen Daldry

Special Notes:  Kidman went through a major transformation having not only her nose completely changed (a prosthetic nose), but her hair and eye color as well.  Most people won’t even recognize her.

Plot:  This is a story based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Michael Cunningham, which focuses on the author Virginia Woolf and her struggle to write her famous novel, Mrs. Dalloway.  As the story unfolds we see Woolf (Kidman) battling with her depression and frustration while trying to write her book and simultaneously we are introduced to two other women.  Moore plays a housewife who seemingly can’t deal with her role as a housewife or a mother in the year 1949.  Streep plays a present day woman who is throwing a party for a friend (Harris) who’s dying of AIDS.

Good:  This is an interesting and thought-provoking movie brilliantly directed by Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot).  The fact that the story spans the 20th century and links three women’s lives by Woolf's novel makes it an unusually creative format to begin with.  But, add the talented cast of Streep, Kidman, Moore and Harris and you have the ingredients for Oscar material.  Streep is quite simply one of the most incredible actresses Hollywood has to offer.  Her character goes through the biggest and most dramatic emotional journey of the story and her touching, even heartbreaking portrayal of a lesbian woman who obviously can’t accept the fact that her best friend/one time lover is dying of AIDS, truly moved me.  The relationship between she and her daughter (Danes) is the most grounded and “normal” of any of the characters, but it’s her intimate moments with Harris (who does a phenomenal job with the small role he’s been given) evoke the most emotional moments of the film.  Bring tissues for her scenes--they are that good.  Moore plays the more emotionally disturbing role.  Her character is a woman who seemingly loves her husband and young son and tries to be a good housekeeper at a time when that role defined women.  But as her story progresses, we see her character contemplate suicide as she grapples with depression after realizing she doesn’t want to be a wife to her sweet and loving husband (Reilly) or a mother to her observing and attention-starved son.  Kidman’s role is one of the more pivotal and important ones because her character sets the stage for the entire story.  Although I could never get past staring at her nose every time she was on screen and being overly intrigued and aware of the special makeup they used in trying to make it look real, still Kidman delivers an incredible performance of a woman deeply disturbed and tormented by her own demons of depression (probably brought on by hormonal or chemical imbalance) and unable to cope with her life.  As the minutes tick by, what you end up with is a beautifully filmed movie with an interesting (but emotionally disturbing) story that has an incredible cast, a great musical score, and “Oscar contender” written all over it.

Bad:  However, just because this is a movie critics will love, doesn’t mean it’s one that audiences will take to.  This is NOT an upbeat movie with a happy ending.  It’s an introspective, sad and depressing look at three women’s lives that were linked in an interesting and profound way by a novel, Mrs. Dalloway.  Men probably won’t enjoy this movie as much as women will but still there are several issues some women may object to.  How many women are unhappy with who they are and with the lives they are living?  How many women secretly feel they are bad mothers, wives or friends, and don’t enjoy the role or path they’ve chosen or have been given in life?  How many women don’t get help when they feel ashamed for their problems and give up on living as a result of their feelings or thoughts?  The real answers to these important questions (that I’m sure this film will raise) lie in a Godly message that you won’t get from this movie.  In fact, nowhere in the story is there a positive, helpful, or hopeful solution to the dilemmas these characters face.  Just an introspective look at three women’s lives who needed answers and tragically, didn’t get them.  Aside from language and religious profanity there are several adult issues that make this PG-13 movie definitely for adults only.  There’s dialogue about suicide, death and a lesbian relationship, as well as a couple of kissing scenes.  Streep gives a long kiss on the lips to her “partner” (Janney) and Moore kisses a friend (Collette) who comes over to her house to visit.  There are two suicides (one by drowning and one jumps out of a window) that aren’t graphic, but they are sad and disturbing.

Bottom Line:  Although I was intrigued by several of the thought-provoking issues raised in this movie--and there’s no question that it was beautifully done--I was disappointed that it was so sad, depressing and disturbing.  The cast was incredible (there’s no denying that), but when you have a plot that doesn’t let you enjoy their characters, it’s hard to enjoy the talent behind the character.  This is a heavy movie with themes that are depressing and controversial, so be prepared to have to think about it and process it afterwards.  I’m not trying to be politically incorrect, or homophobic, or anything like that--but as a movie critic, I think I have a right to bring this up.  Why is Hollywood so intrigued with showing women kissing on screen these days?  And since when has lesbianism become the new “norm” for relationships in storylines?  I’m sorry, but watching Meryl Streep lay a big fat kiss on Janney’s mouth didn’t thrill me…in fact…it disgusted me for several reasons but mainly because it wasn’t really even necessary to the plot; it was simply thrown in to titillate and shock.  And it did.  Why was Streep living with Janney and claiming to be lesbian when she had a daughter from an earlier relationship?  Why did Moore feel compelled to kiss her close friend then immediately abandon her child and husband afterwards?  I’m tired of Hollywood sending confusing and mixed signals through a homosexual agenda down unsuspecting audiences' throats.  It’s one thing to do it in movies that are known to be about that subject and let the audience choose to spend their money that way, but when it’s disguised in beautifully made films with big name stars that attract naïve and unsuspecting audiences, I object to it.  People tend to spend their money on movies that have big name talent carrying them, because there’s a certain trust factor that goes with a star and the movies they choose.  These days, that trust factor seems to be diminishing.