First of all, let’s get the nose out of the way. Is it possible for a piece of prosthetic to improve someone’s acting? Not that Nicole Kidman is a bad actress. In fact she is very good, but in “The Hours” Kidman completely emerges herself into Virginia Woolf and it’s difficult to judge how much the nose helps. Either way, it is a fantastic performance by both.
“The Hours,” based on Michael Cunningham’s Pulitizer Prize-winning novel, is the story of three women in three different decades whose lives seem to revolve around “Mrs. Dalloway,” Woolf’s 1925 novel. We see Kidman as Woolf writing the novel in the 1920s, Julianne Moore as a depressed suburban housewife reading the book in the 1950s, and Meryl Streep as the equivalent of Dalloway in modern day New York. Each story deals with hopelessness, guilt and suicide.
And lesbianism. It has nothing to do with the film, but it seems that every female character is gay or bisexual. (Or maybe it does have something to do with the film and I’m too dense to understand.) This neither enhances nor hinders the story. In fact, this revelation doesn’t occur to the moviegoer until late in the film.
“The Hours” is full of great moments but fails to engage the moviegoer until late into the picture, when one becomes completely engrossed in its plot. You start as an outsider and the filmmakers are so clever with their craft that you don’t realize when they have hooked you. All you know is that you are hooked.
This is not the feel-good hit of the winter. In each of the three stories there is at least one suicide attempt. If you’re having any depressive thoughts, do not see this film. Moviegoers may want to slit their wrists after seeing “The Hours,” but it is a different cinematic experience than wanting to be put out of their misery after seeing “Pearl Harbor.” This is heavy, depressing stuff.
The performances from the entire cast make this depressing film, well … depressing, which is a good thing because it means they did their job. The three leads are superb with each actress performing at her best. The only question Oscar should be asking is who the two other nominees for Best Actress should be.
The other standout is Ed Harris as the dying ex-husband of Meryl Streep. Through his heartbreaking conversation with Streep where he sits on the window ledge of his apartment, the audience gains knowledge of his connection with the stories and finds his tragedy the most disturbing.
The film is littered with some fine cinematic images. In one scene, water floods a room where Moore is lying on a bed contemplating suicide. In another, Kidman slowly walks into a river with her pockets full of rocks to weigh her body down under the water.
Throughout the film, Philip Glass’s haunting music acts as an adhesive to the three stories, allowing each plot to flow into the next without hesitation. This is a major contribution to the movie and hopefully the Academy will acknowledge it.