Tuesday, September 11, 2012
(December 2002, U.S.)
Listen up, guys - many of us, at one time or another, have likely been dragged to a so-called "chick flick" by our significant female others. It hasn't always been pretty. Make no mistake, though - THE HOURS is nothing of the kind. It's a serious film about serious grown women and it's incredibly gripping to watch and listen to.
I'm almost proud to say that back in 2002, I was NOT dragged to see this film by my wife. When I saw the trailer and the female talent power of Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore and Nicole Kidman together in one film, I hardly needed to be dragged by anyone to see a film like that. Be warned, though, that THE HOURS is not a happy film. In fact, before the film is even five minutes in progress, we're witnessing the suicide of famed British author Virginia Woolf. From there, the mood and tone of film barely picks up at all. What is absolutely intruiging here is that we're witnessing the tormented lives of three women over the course of a single day and separated by several decades. In 1923, Virginia Woolf (played by Kidman) is struggling with her depression and mental illness as she tries to begin writing her famous book, "Mrs. Dalloway". In 1951, troubled and potentially-suicidal Los Angeles housewife Laura Brown (played by Moore) escapes from her life as a conventional housewife by reading "Mrs Dalloway" and trying her best to care for her equally-troubled little boy, Richie. In 2001, New Yorker Clarissa Vaughan (played by Streep) is the embodiment of the title character of "Mrs Dalloway" as she spends the day preparing for a party she's hosting in honour of her former lover and friend Richard (played almost frighteningly by Ed Harris), a gay poet and author living with AIDS who is to receive an award for career achievement. Richard freely admits that he's only staying alive out of consideration for Clarissa, because according to her, "That is what people do. They stay alive for each other."
So, just in case it hasn't dawned on you yet, Richard is the man that 1951's Laura Brown's "Richie" will inevitably grow up to be. That's actually only a minor revelation because anybody with half a brain can figure that out as soon as "Richard" and "Richie" are mentioned in the same film. What I found to be more emotionally gripping here was not just the manner in which Richard finally ends his life in the end, but the truth we learn about his mother who we're lead to believe took her own life in 1951. I've always felt that twist, turns and revelations are much more intruiging when they involve characters that are equally as intruiging, and in this case, quite intelligent and literal.
As mentioned, this film ain't exactly a popcorn happy experience. It's a serious downer that packs an deeply moving, emotional wallop with some very fine acting by all of it's participants. Somehow, despite the fact that suicide eventually tempts the three characters, THE HOURS is not a truly morbid film. Through the eyes of depression and despair, we're somehow given a small glipse of hope at the end in that when one day ends, there's always another one to begin the next moring, filled with possibilities and that when someone dies, it can often remind us of how precious life can be. And THAT, my friends, is a lot coming from an admitted cynic like me!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Clarissa Vaughn: "I remember one morning getting up at dawn, there was such a sense of possibility. You know, that feeling? And I remember thinking to myself: So, this is the beginning of happiness. This is where it starts. And of course there will always be more. It never occurred to me it wasn't the beginning. It was happiness. It was the moment. Right then."
Yes, life can be considered nothing more than a compilations of moments.