Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Hours



This one is for the sake of memory and nostalgia. 'The Hours' was nominated for nine Oscars in the year 2003. I was around 18 back then, and held the opinion that every film becomes watchable once it gets nominated for an Oscar. So I watched 'The Hours' after having read 'Mrs. Dalloway' and after being subject to all the hype around Nicole Kidman's fake nose.

The predominant theme in 'The Hours' is that of life and death. The story is told through the lives of three women in different decades. All three are bound by the book 'Mrs. Dalloway' by Virginia Woolf. The film starts with Virginia Woolf (played by Nicole and the fake nose) who is writing the book. Then it moves on to Laura Brown(played by Julianne Moore), a housewife of the 1950s, who is reading the book and then to Clarissa Vaughn (played by Meryl Streep) who is literally the 21st century version of 'Mrs. Dalloway'.

When I saw it the first time, I was thrilled to see the resemblance Clarissa Vaughn and the characters in her life bore to the people in Mrs. Dalloway. I was deeply moved by Julianne Moore's performance as the troubled Laura Brown who drowns in her superficially happy marriage and battles with her bisexuality. I was a tad puzzled by Nicole Kidman's portrayal of Virginia Woolf. She doesn't quite resemble Mrs. Woolf to start with, her performance was picture perfect but seriously lacking in empathy. Meryl Streep was good as she always is, but not as striking as Julianne Moore. Julianne Moore is expressive, empathetic and quietly brilliant. It still hurts when I think of how Catherine Zeta Jones won the Oscar for 'Chicago' instead of Julianne Moore for 'The Hours'.

The strength of the film lies in the screenplay. Very rarely does an adaptation hold one's unbiased attention. The melancholy score is unobtrusive yet profoundly correct. The film scores mainly due to its talented supporting cast. Ed Harris as the tormented Richard Brown, Stephen Dillane as the loyal Leonard Woolf, Miranda Richardson as Vanessa Bell and John C. Reilly as Dan Brown were some of my personal favourites. The showdown between Leonard and Virginia Woolf would have been incomplete without the geniune hurt on Stephen Dillane's face.

It is still worth watching after all these years. Very rarely does Hollywood churn out a masterpiece that compells one to reflect and introspect.

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