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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 20.31%
Average: 15.63%
Pretty Bad: 14.84%
Total Crap: 18.75%

8 reviews, 80 user ratings

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Hours, The
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by Brian McKay

"Counting the Minutes"
2 stars

While a contingent of the HBS crew is up in Park City, Utah, this week, seeing great new films and offering celebs oral for five minute interviews, I decided to broaden my horizons and take in one of the recently released "oscar buzz" films to see what all the fuss was about. I'm thinking of never speaking again to the group of people I went to see this film with. Of course, part of the blame is mine. I thought they said they were going to see THE 25th HOUR.

So instead of Ed Norton with a goatee', I ended up with a hook-nosed Nicole Kidman. Yes, someone in the make-up department beat Nicole with an ugly stick until her nose got all swollen up. Between that and the furry eyebrows, all she needed was a pair of thick-framed glasses to complete the Groucho Marx set. But even if you strip away her good looks, her talent will remain intact. Even with her dowdy, moody, and unattractive portrayal of novelist Virginia Woolfe, I couldn't help but find her intriguing. If anyone deserves an Oscar nod for The Hours, it's her - at least if the Golden Globes are any indication.

The film begins with an intriguing setup, as we witness events taking place in three seperate eras. A 1930's Virginia Woolfe is contemplating suicide while also contemplating whether or not to kill the heroine of her latest story, Mrs. Dalloway. In the meantime, she smokes more weed than Snoop Dogg, tolerates a visit from her sister (Miranda Richardson) and her three rugrats, and chomps at the bit of provincial life with her stifling and overprotective husband Leonard (Stephen Dillane) while pining to return to the ranks of London society.

Decades later in 1950's Los Angeles, post-war housewife Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) reads Woolfe's novel Mrs. Dalloway and contemplates suicide (imagine that). Every expression on her face is angst-riddled, as she sends her vacantly smiling dolt of a husband off to work on his birthday and gnashes against the bars of the suburban hell she finds herself in. Even something as simple as baking a cake becomes reason to call the suicide hot line. Only the fact that she is saddled with a love for her young son Richard, as well as having another child on the way, keeps her from sucking on a tail pipe. She lives a life of quiet desperation and pines for her busty socialite friend, Kitty (Toni Colette).

Finally, in 2001, New York editor Clarissa Vaughn (Meryl Streep) is planning a party for her former lover and long-time friend Richard Brown (Ed Harris), a poet who has just won a prestigious lifetime achievement award, but who feels that the only reason he was selected for it was out of pity because he is dying of AIDS. Although it is clear the two have always loved each other, each stuck in their past with each other, Richard lives alone in a ghetto apartment while Clarissa lives in a perfunctory relationship with her lover of ten years, Sally (Allison Janey). Richard affectionately calls Clarissa "Mrs. Dalloway" because she shares the same first name as the heroine from Woolfe's novel - and her life is about to unfold in a similar fashion to that of Woolfe's protagonist.

As I said, it's an intriguing set up, but sadly gives way to a ponderous follow through that fails to connect on any meaningful level. Everyone in The Hours, with the exception of the more reserved Kidman, paints such broad strokes of melancholy that I expected all of them to end up offing themselves, along with half of the audience. We are expected to feel strongly for these characters, but are given no real insight as to why we should care. There is no tangible context provided for all the disquietude, no backdrop against which an audience can truly appreciate the plight of the female protagonists. And seeing Ed Harris in this role reminded me of his portrayal of Jackson Pollock in that he seems to be throwing everything out there and seeing what sticks to the canvas. His character, though occasionally poignant or compelling, is mostly just disjointed and grating. Likewise, Richard and Clarissa's constant harking back to their one shining moment of happiness together in the past quickly grows tedious, and offers up no conjecture on why they never stayed together in the first place. Only Jeff Daniels brightens things up a bit with his portrayal of Lewis Walters, Richard's former lover who has shown up for the party. Daniels also delivers up one of the films few memorable (and funny) lines.

Clarissa: So How's San Francisco?
Lewis: Oh . . . it's a city people tell you to like.

While it's always nice to be living in the city that a film makes a joke about, just so you can get that extra inside laugh, the line sums up my feelings about The Hours. It's a film that people will tell you to like. It's based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, it features some of the finest actors of our day, it deals with weighty and important issues. This movie has "Oscar Buzz". You have to like it. How could you not?

Well, just because people tell you to like it doesn't make it so. While it initially sparks the interest with the three overlapping stories, and some occasionally brilliant acting, playing emotional connect-the-dots between characters and story arcs leaves one with a muddle Rorschach blot at best. Practically everyone in The Hours is so perfunctorily joyless that you end up wishing they had all killed themselves, instead of just one or two of them. And while it claims to be an affirmation of the value of life, the fact that it begins and ends with suicide won't exactly have you shuffling out of the theater like Roberto Benigni in Auschwitz. Just as the source of all the angst is unclear, so is the point of the Lesbian subtext. Two of the women, Virginia and Laura, are each drawn to other women (her own sister, in Virginia's case). Yet their quiet yearning seems the result of their pre-existing misery, not the other way around. Each of the women they are drawn to are the embodiment of the kind of life that they feel has passed them by, while they are stifled by what their husbands think their "happiness" should be. Meanwhile, Clarissa's long-running relationship with Sally, while bearing some elements of genuine love, is mostly an escape from the pain of having lost whatever it was that she and Richard briefly shared. In other words, the women all turn to other women because men have made them miserable. While that's not an implausible concept, it's not a very convincing one either in this case. For the most part, their misery seems self-manufactured, as they live in cages of their own making. Even Virginia's mental history of paranoia and hearing voices seems to be at least partially brought onto herself - hey, if I smoke that much weed, I'll start hearing voices too. One hit too many, and I start hearing the ghost kids from The Blair Witch Project outside my window. Maybe if Virginia had cut back on the sticky, her life wouldn't have felt so icky.

I wanted to like these characters, wanted to care about them, but in the end they just seemed a bit too intent to wallow in their misery. I can wallow with the best of them, but The Hours offers up no tangible incentive for doing so.

So, let's do the math on THE HOURS. One pulitzer-prize winning novel + one prosthetic proboscis for Nicole Kidman + a great yet poorly utilized cast = hours of pretentious horse shit - two of them, to be exact. A great two hours for book-of-the-month club coffee house wankers, perhaps, but a downbeat snooze festivus for the rest of us.

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originally posted: 01/20/03 04:40:43
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2003 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2003 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

9/03/12 Courtney Great cast & a gripping story of love and loss. 5 stars
9/07/08 Pamela White life choices restrained by social expectations 4 stars
4/06/07 Anthony brilliant writing acting music. A perfect film 5 stars
1/21/07 Bitchflaps Risibly pretentious and dramatically one note, bonus points for the detail and Moore's perf 2 stars
6/18/06 jcnice well acted but it's message is old hat: be true to yourself. 4 stars
4/12/06 anthonyuk great film but the oscar should have gone to julianne moore 5 stars
4/02/06 JRE i don't get it 4 stars
1/03/06 Daveman I'm shocked to say that Nicole deserved her oscar 4 stars
12/23/05 Indrid Cold Intelligent, meloncholy dramas are nice in theory, but they usually turn out pretty boring. 4 stars
10/05/05 Jesse Taylor Possibly the best movie of 2002. Outstanding performances from the whole cast. 5 stars
8/29/05 rada perfect 4 stars
8/25/05 ES This is a numbingly boring and badly made movie about weak women who are closet lesbians 1 stars
6/22/05 K. Everts Interesting review, but M.P. Bartley should learn to spell "its." 4 stars
6/08/05 fab Seen this and want to die(only women can like this crap) 1 stars
1/08/05 Lucas Stenz bites 1 stars
12/05/04 Kristina Williams I was surprised at how much I liked this flick, even with fake noses and lesbos. 5 stars
11/03/04 ELI Needed more lesbians! Besides that it was pretty good. 4 stars
11/02/04 Eleanor it got me thinking about walking a mile in another mans shoes 5 stars
11/01/04 AnnaMaria this movie is a masterpiece it gives us a different point of view.. 5 stars
10/29/04 moviegoer Worst movie ever! 1 stars
10/02/04 Daveman Too staged, theatrical and contrived, The Hours never really comes to life. 2 stars
8/16/04 Rusty Klichowicz 3 women, 3 eras, connected by spirit. 5 stars 5 stars
7/08/04 Denise Duspiva a real surprise 5 stars
4/25/04 Carla i thought it was confusing and boring. 3 stars
4/17/04 Alex Blech. Yech. Shudder. I have no words. 1 stars
4/17/04 Michael Greenwaldt Despite a good cast, it's a very disappointing, highly pretentious piece of crap. 2 stars
4/15/04 gordon purcell Indulgent, overwrought, with bad part for struggling Harris (Streep, Moore are strong 'tho) 1 stars
4/15/04 Charlene Javier One of the best films EVER! 5 stars
4/15/04 rojo Well acted, but depressing. 4 stars
4/13/04 Chris I really liked it however did every women have to be gay? Acted very well with good cast. 4 stars
3/06/04 Jaco Visser The first movie that drove ME to tears! Very heavy! Beautiful! The best drama ever! 5 stars
3/01/04 alice heavy, too heavy 3 stars
2/13/04 Monster W. Kung Horrid, fake drama that offers nothing whatsoever. 1 stars
2/03/04 May Q. Horney Could have been worse! Meryl Streep could have been the one with nose enlargement! 2 stars
2/03/04 Iris Verna How did Nicole Kidman smell while wearing that fake nose? Awful! 2 stars
2/03/04 LeAnn McFadden Nicole, did someone select that nose for you? Or did you get to pick your nose yourself? 2 stars
1/29/04 Rhoda Knight Bullshit Elena! I dont like the movie because IT is sexist! 1 stars
1/24/04 Elena This film was amazing and beautifully acted and conveyed. If you dont like it you're sexist 5 stars
1/09/04 Gray Exemplary performances by Moore and Streep. Beautiful music. Heavy-going. 4 stars
1/02/04 Nick Pretty bad with occasional decent moments, but no way did Kidman deserve that Oscar. 2 stars
10/05/03 Karen Moore I hope real Virginia Woolf was nothing like this! Other 2 brats are fictitious,so who cares 1 stars
9/16/03 Jinnvisible `Body snatcher`approach to period drama , Aaagh!!! depresion has got me better, kill myself 3 stars
9/03/03 Amelia Lundy The Hours is one of the most deeply, moving,best films I've ever seen. 5 stars
8/26/03 Millie Maelstrom Charles Tatum, hope your IQ is over 20. These women are self-indulgent,NOT self-sacrificing 1 stars
8/25/03 May Q. Horney Could've been worse -- Meryl Streep could have been the one with nose enlargement! 2 stars
8/17/03 Summer Kidman had that Best Actress Oscar coming a long time before, but The Hours WAS great. 5 stars
8/14/03 cpbjr nicole kidman was amazing, as were all the actors 5 stars
8/13/03 The Talking Elbow Some good acting, especially Nicole, but the movie had an odd lesbian pretense. 3 stars
7/27/03 Kay Y. Keep prozac with you while watching. 4 stars
7/08/03 John Phillips If you liked Shrek you will love this one, CGI was amazing. 5 stars
6/19/03 gray dicks 5 stars
6/11/03 George Jung Cheap Oscar bullshit without a single original fucking thought. 1 stars
5/22/03 Desert Rat Immature jackass is just that--Julianne Moore rocked! 4 stars
5/09/03 Ellie Jack Mello Intelligent. No conclusion but - this IS Virginia Wolfe! 5 stars
5/06/03 immature jackoff Julianne Moore is a quite capable actress, but utterly wasted in this bratfest! 2 stars
4/20/03 Flick Chick boring, dull, slow, pointless crap disguised as a cinematic masterpiece 1 stars
4/20/03 Dillon Julianne Moore made it worthwhile. I'm not surprised immature jackoffs hated it 5 stars
4/05/03 Sherron Total agreement with your review. In the end I wanted to slit my throat! 2 stars
3/24/03 May Q. Horney Could have been worse -- Meryl Streep could have been the one with nose enlargement! 2 stars
3/23/03 byron chicago rules u gay fuks 1 stars
3/11/03 Shadaan Felfeli Performances were good enough but i just didn't get the whole lesbionic film ! 3 stars
3/07/03 Sure hope that's not the world I'M trapped in! Trapped in a world where everyone's gay and can't be happy trying to deny it. 3 stars
2/27/03 tina I thought it was BRILLIANT. The score was amazing 5 stars
2/26/03 Deanna Beautiful captures the book wonderfully NOT for the boom boom crowd. 5 stars
2/23/03 Flick Chick boring, dull, slow, pointless crap disguised as a cinematic masterpiece 1 stars
2/23/03 renate + udo HANDEL crap 1 stars
2/19/03 Tar Mac Decent enough, but there's no way this deserves to be odds-on for best picture! 4 stars
2/18/03 y2mckay Nice review, Tash! See Rider, even women don't like it! The He-slut is vindicated! 2 stars
2/14/03 Andrew Carden Misunderstood Film Is Actually Quite Fantasic. 5 stars
2/09/03 Lee Y2McKay took the words right out of my mouth 2 stars
2/08/03 Heather Great acting all around, enjoyed the Mrs Dalloway influence throughout 5 stars
2/02/03 Ubu the Ripper How can anyone in their right mind thinks Nicole Kidman can act? GROTESQUE. 1 stars
2/01/03 Suzz a splendid and beautiful film 5 stars
1/28/03 pipeman brilliant. Not to be missed. 5 stars
1/27/03 Angolmois Moody, brooding etc... but that's why it's greast. Hope you like Philip Glass music. 5 stars
1/22/03 Benjamin Leatherman Hours? Seemed like days! Boring flick about middle-aged broads. 3 stars
1/22/03 Jen I really liked it. But maybe thats because I read the book before I saw it...... 5 stars
1/15/03 Wyrus Sandman Wow, I'm the only person who's seen this? Thematically hard to follow, but great acting 3 stars
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  27-Dec-2002 (PG-13)
  DVD: 24-Jun-2003



Directed by
  Stephen Daldry

Written by
  David Hare

  Meryl Streep
  Nicole Kidman
  Julianne Moore
  Toni Collette
  Claire Danes
  Ed Harris

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