Movie Reviews
1:44 pm
Sat January 18, 2003

The Hours

...this film is my vote for best of whatever year it wants. It's good, I mean, it's very good.

I vote we award Oscars to the three female leads of "The Hours" and move on to the next year's balloting. Michael Cunningham's Pulitzer of the same name, David Hare's adaptation, and Stephen Daldry's direction bring enough pedigree to the project, but these performances are the equal of those masters.

Meryl Streep plays a literary editor in contemporary New York, Julianne Moore is a 1951 Los Angeles housewife heading for suicide, and Nicole Kidman with a large nose plays Virginia Woolf in 1923 England. Woolf's dark novel, "Mrs. Dalloway," and Woolf's suicide connect all. While the novel was for me sometimes awkward in its transitions from woman to woman, Daldry's smooth direction (remember his remarkable "Billy Elliott"), and the strong females made every action and period shift understandable.

It also helps to have Phillip Glass ("Naqoyqatsi" and "Koyaanisqatsi") in charge of the score. His spare instrumentation is, of course, present, and he comes closer than ever to paralleling the action, interpreting it if you will, with a consistency and power that also helps us to process the D.W. Griffith-type cross-cutting through the years.

Helping to keep the tripartite construction in check besides the Woolf novel and the music is the fact that each woman is in crisis, each seeming to be detached from ordinary life, each wondering if she fits in this world. This is heady stuff usually the province of long-take Europeans: Daldry lingers intimately on the actresses' faces so we can savor their immense sadness and beauty.

"The Hours" is a Sapphic symphony of women who are inclined to kiss each other in ways they don't kiss their husbands, of women who have not found happiness but are not reluctant to chuck it all for the unknown. They are magnetized by Virginia Woolf's daring life and romantic disconnection. Enacted by consummate actresses, this film is my vote for best of whatever year it wants. It's good, I mean, it's very good.