The Hours
(2002, 114 min, USA)
Director: Stephne Daldry

The script is excellent. The method of cutting between scenes is uncommon and well executed, and the acting is above par. In other films with Nicole Kidman, she seems to think that if she develops a character with a particular attribute, she can differentiate that role both from herself and other performances. Doing so generally makes her characters one dimensional, but here -- where she plays a woman that the viewers know -- it is a useful way to describe the madness of Virginia Woolf. In every scene, Kidman's brow is furrowed, and her eyes dart about in a face that is almost still. This works to convey the portrait of a troubled intellectual.

Meryl Streep gets the most breadth with her role as Clarissa Vaughan, and uses it to good effect. Julianne Moore seemed relegated to reprising her role in "Far from Heaven". This time she's less perfect, but she's still a sad 50s housewife who feels stuck -- betrayed -- in her home life. Again, she gives a good performance, but Moore can do so much more that it seems a waste to see her recast so similarly.

The film takes snapshots from three women at three different times and switches from one to the next as an item in the life of one becomes related to an item in the life of another. All three share the common thread of the book, "Mrs. Dalloway", all three have varying troubles with men in their lives, and all three are also unhappy with their own lives. Unlike the over-used theme of relating completely different story lines to one common tie-in, this film deliberately brings out reflections on each heroine when dealing with the others.

Giving consideration to the perfect flow between the three women, the general production quality, acting, and (again) excellent script, the only things that keeps this movie from being great is the director's choice of shots and the score. For example, at one point the camera *should* be pulling back for a long shot of the kitchen to 1) emphasize Streep's sorrow and isolation, and 2) get the other actor in the shot, *but* instead the camera just sticks on Streep in close up, and then the editor has to do some foolish cutting and jumping around to get the other actor involved. It was a wasted shot that could have been fixed with just a little planning. Of course, that's just my opinion. It's probably best to take what I say with a grain of salt. After all, I wasn't that fond of Daldry's earlier movie, "Billy Elliot", but the majority disagreed with me and unlike Daldry, I've not only never directed, but I'm not getting fame and fortune from my (lack of) direction.

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