Three generations of women are affected by the writings of Virginia
Woolf in profound ways that change their entire outlooks on life.
The Hours (2002)
Directed by Stephen Daldry
Written by David Hare
Starring Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore,
Ed Harris, John C. Reilly, Jeff Daniels, Claire Danes,
Allison Janney, Toni Collette, Stephen Dillane, Miranda Richardson
Based on the novel by Michael Cunningham
Oscar Wins - Best Actress (Nicole Kidman)
Oscar Nominations - Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor
(Ed Harris), Best Supporting Actress (Julianne Moore),
Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Costume Design,
Best Film Editing, Best Original Score (Philip Glass)
Stephen Daldry has built a respectable career out of weighty, emotional drama, and The Hours may just be his masterpiece. Three separate but thematically connected stories are woven together into a coherent narrative by the thread of Virginia Woolf's novel Mrs. Dalloway. All three stories are compelling and incredibly well-acted by the epic ensemble that Daldry assembled here. I had initially thought the film was a biopic of Virginia Woolf, and while I'm sure her segment is fairly accurate, this is a film about how her work may have helped readers find something in themselves.
Our first story follows Virginia Woolf (Kidman) in 1941 as she wrestles with her suicidal thoughts and comes up with Mrs. Dalloway. Kidman outshines everyone in the film, and the Academy felt the same. Her chemistry with Stephen Dillane, who plays her husband Leonard, is palpable. Our second story takes place in 1951 as pregnant housewife Laura Brown (Moore) considers suicide, as domestic bliss is destroying her. Our third story brings us to 2001, where book critic Clarissa Vaughn (Moore) starts to unravel while trying to throw a party for her longtime friend Richard (Harris), a poet afflicted with AIDS. This film is a definite downer, and all three stories' endings reflect the pain that some people can't escape.
I'm surprised The Hours hasn't garnered more respect over the years. Kidman, Streep, and Moore deliver some of their best work, anchoring three separate decades in a film that could've easily been a confusing mess had it not been for the fantastic editing. This is a painful one at times, but worth it in the end.