Delicate and hypnotic, The Hours interweaves three stories with remarkable skill: in the 1920s Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman) grapples with her inner demons and slowly works on her novel Mrs. Dalloway; in 1949 housewife Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) feels her own destructive impulses; and in 1999 book editor Clarissa Vaughn (Meryl Streep)—much like the title character of Woolf’s novel—prepares to throw a party, in honor of her dearest friend, a seriously ill poet (Ed Harris). Small details reverberate from story to story as a powerhouse cast…
Delicate and hypnotic, The Hours interweaves three stories with remarkable skill: in the 1920s Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman) grapples with her inner demons and slowly works on her novel Mrs. Dalloway; in 1949 housewife Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) feels her own destructive impulses; and in 1999 book editor Clarissa Vaughn (Meryl Streep)—much like the title character of Woolf’s novel—prepares to throw a party, in honor of her dearest friend, a seriously ill poet (Ed Harris). Small details reverberate from story to story as a powerhouse cast (including Allison Janney, Toni Collette, Claire Danes, Jeff Daniels, John C. Reilly, Stephen Dillane, and Miranda Richardson) gives subtle and beautifully modulated performances. In the hands of director Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot), The Hours is almost more a piece of music than a story, and like music, it may move you in unexpected ways. —Bret Fetzer
Barnes and Noble
A complex, engrossing tale primarily enacted by three of the finest actresses working in film today, The Hours interweaves the stories of three profoundly unhappy women linked by an unforgettable book that reveals more about them than they care to admit. David Hare’s adaptation of Michael Cunningham’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is intricately structured and meticulously layered, and it creates an emotional vortex that’s as unforgettable as it is powerful. Nicole Kidman, deliberately de-glamorized, portrays novelist Virginia Woolf as a tortured soul whose brilliant work emerges out of her struggle with mental illness. Many years later, Woolf’s novel Mrs. Dalloway has a hypnotic effect on Laura Brown (Julianne Moore), an emotionally barren housewife who cares little for her loving husband (John C. Reilly) and finds Cold War suburban life intolerable. Still later, Clarissa Vaughan (Meryl Streep), a middle-aged lesbian living in New York, conceals her private desperation while caring for her suicidal, AIDS-ravaged former lover (Ed Harris). Director Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot) unobtrusively guides the three disparate story lines toward their inevitable conclusions, allowing his outstanding performers plenty of latitude in illustrating the different views of love, passion, and duty that comprise the movie’s core. There are no heroes or villains in this yarn, only people who—like many of us—silently yearn for something they fear they will never attain. Their longing is conveyed, palpably but with subtlety, in this richly emotional drama, a tour de force by virtue of its superb cast. Ed Hulse
How better to score a movie that takes place in three tangentially related time periods than with music that strives for timelessness? The hallmarks of Philip Glass’s minimalism serve The Hours well. The film, based on Michael Cunningham’s novel, tells the stories of three women—Virginia Woolf in the early 1920s, a housewife just after World War II, and a book editor in the present—whose days relate in different ways to Woolf’s novel Mrs. Dalloway. Yet rather than construct a sonic montage of these three time periods (perhaps some Ravel for Woolf,…
A daring, deeply affecting third novel by the author of A Home at the End of the World and Flesh and Blood.
In The Hours, Michael Cunningham, widely praised as one of the most gifted writers of his generation, draws inventively on the life and work of Virginia Woolf to tell the story of a group of contemporary characters struggling with the conflicting claims of love and inheritance, hope and despair. The narrative of Woolf’s last days before her suicide early in World War II counterpoints the fictional stories of Samuel, a famous poet whose life has been shadowed by his talented and troubled mother, and his lifelong friend Clarissa, who strives to forge a balanced and rewarding life in spite of the demands of friends, lovers, and family.
Passionate, profound, and deeply moving, this is Cunningham’s most remarkable achievement to date.