The Hours

The Philip Glass score was not the only thing in The Hours to evoke Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters. Both movies are structured as three intercut narratives; both concern writers, their lives and their works.

In The Hours one story focuses on Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman), the author of Mrs. Dalloway. The second, on Laura Brown (Julianne Moore), a 1950s housewife who is reading Mrs. Dalloway. And the third, on Clarissa Vaughn (Meryl Streep), who shares Mrs. Dalloway’s first name and the circumstances of preparing for a dinner party. As one day in each of the three lives are intercut, one sees the echoes between them.

For all that this is a movie about writers, readers, and words, the emphasis is more visual than literary, more evocative than intellectual. During the opening credit sequence, the images seemed to support the music rather than the other way around. Philip Glass meets MTV. In a couple of other scenes, the music is shrill and intrusive, reducing some of the beautifully acted scenes to melodrama.

But in the end, the acting takes the day. Nicole Kidman completely loses herself in the role. Julianne Moore seems perfectly molded in her place and time. And Ed Harris is gaunt and frightening as the Clarissa’s lost love, the AIDS-stricken poet, Richard Brown.

The Hours is engrossing rather than entertaining. Rather than tell a simple story, the movie wants us to feel the moment, the interconnectness of lives and books, of readers and writers. Some people might find it pretentious, but I like this kind of movie.

Bottom Line: Highly Recommended

2 Responses to “The Hours”

  1. Dana Scragg Frank Responds:

    I loved this movie, and I think I need to see it again. I loved all the acting and was particularly interested in Nicole Kidman’s take on Virginia Woolf, how she worked, where she sat, how she struggled with the story. Sometimes I wonder if I’m doing it right, this writing thing, and I wonder if my habits and moodiness and indecision are, what, normal. For a writer. Kidman helped me see that, yes, that’s what it is all about. Just let go, don’t be self-conscious. Just write.

    Thanks for the lovely, intelligent entry, M.

    If I remember correctly, VW actually wrote her novels standing up. I can’t find the reference, but it must be somewhere on my shelf of books devoted to the Bloomsbury crowd. — mss

  2. Dana Scragg Frank Responds:

    Well, I’ve heard somewhere that studies show that children learn better while standing up. At Texas Monthly there is a stand-up desk where one can work, editing, proofreading, discussing edits. I always loved that desk, very old-fashioned, wood, like my desk here, not at all built for even the notion of a computer. I lay my keyboard inside the drawer of my desk at home to get the most ergonomic positioning. I would love a stand-up desk at home, though, so that when I got up to walk around the leaving wouldn’t be such a departure. It would almost be like the writing could be part of the rhythm of the day, and I could cruise by the desk, write until I had no more for the moment, and then wander off to stroke the horses or hang the laundry.

The surface and beneath the surface