DALDREYS "THE HOURS"
FILM REVIEW BY ALEX GRANT
Writer Hare and director Daldrey in tandem never put a foot wrong
tour-de-force adapted by veteran British playwright and scenarist David
Hare from Michael Cunninghams inspired and evocative novel of
the same name THE HOURS, which won the 1999 Pulitzer Prize, is a film
that makes you feel very glad to be alive. In spite of its frighteningly
accurate and empathetic depiction of despair and profound personal misery
as the triggers for suicide THE HOURS is a genuinely life-affirming
experience, one that certainly renews my own faith in existence, and
in art--house cinemas viability. So very many "indie"
art-house films are sterile and self-serving:bereft of the strong currents
that should flow through any stirring lifes depiction on celluloid.
Director Stephen Daldrey knows just how very revealing of both
thoughts and feelings - an astutely judged close-up can become when
actresses of the caliber of Nicole Kidman unrecognizable due
to a prosthetic proboscis; that is a false nose Meryl Streep,
and Julianne Moore are on camera, their finely tuned features exposing
the very souls of the particular women that they here personify so convincingly.
Three eras are examined minutely : the Forties, the Fifties and the
first year of the New Millennium. Virginia Woolf the eccentric writer
of " Mrs,Dalloway" (1923), her fourth novel, is stranded in
the rural unexciting enclave of Thames-side Richmond utterly denied
the pleasures of the Metropolis of nearby London apprehensive that her
severe manic-depression will recur in the giddy social whirl of The
Capital.Her anxious husband Leonard Woolf tends her like an exotic houseplant
apt to wilt on cue.
Mrs.Laura Brown is a scattered California suburbanite wrestling with
the demons of a well-meaning dullard of a hubby, a clingy little son,
and yet another child on the way. She is affluent yet suffers from a
restless debilitatinganomie; social isolation causing an
all embracing melancholy. Ms.Clarissa Mrs.Dalloway Vaughan
is a New York book editor, a gay older woman. with a loving partner,
who has been caring for an emaciated terminally aetiolated AIDS victim,
Richard Brown, a distinguished bisexual poet and novelist at the end
of his tether, drugged up to the eyeballs and unwilling to leave his
scummy sordid loft. His ersatz Mrs Dalloway remains his sole contact
with the outside world.
All three stories are interwoven yet are elucidated across triple time-frames
in a vibrantly intimate way . We suffer along with them as they contemplate
ending it all, though Streeps Ms. Vaughan never quite reaches
that ultimate crisis. To portray people in extremis is never an easy
task when the overwhelming "intimacy "of film - if poorly
calibrated - can tip over into melodramatic excess. One ill-judged scene
can topple even the most suave svelte drama into the ridiculous.
Writer Hare and director Daldrey in tandem never put a foot wrong, never
take a misstep, nor make a single false move that could so readily have
spoilt the mood of doom and gloom relieved by wit and loving attention
to detail. Only the insistent, typically plangent musical score of Philip
Glass monotonously droning and tinkling in our ears - damages
this exceptionally deft adaptation from page to screen. And it must
be said it could be any actress of talent under the prosthetic proboscis,
for theNicoleKidman we know well is entirely hidden.Whereas Moore is
utterly convincing again, as she was in FAR FROM HEAVEN ( best not to
see this before you see THE HOURS ) in the role of a frazzled Lotus
Land hausfrau on the verge of a major emotional collapse, and Streep,
ever entirely reliable, is the soundly anchored mainstay for all of
this splendid depiction of angst and its obverse: the Woolfian contemplation,
indeed celebration, of the daily vicissitudes of dull existence.
It is through our enduring and withstanding the tedium of minute-by-minute
living- at its most banal and boring - that we all of us
become authentic heroines and heroes. Woolf drowned herself at age 59
, choosing to surrender to an all enveloping bleakness of the soul.
But then without her mood-disorder,as we would label her
creative agony today,would she have proved a major groundbreaking literary
© Alex Grant 2003
< Reply to this Article
all rights reserved