“A woman’s whole life in a single day. Just one day. And in that day her whole life. ”
The film opens with a reading of Virginia Woolf’s suicide note as she fills her pockets with stones and walks into a river to drown herself. The tone is firmly set.
In The Hours, we see three different days for three women spread over sixty years. There’s Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman) in the middle of writing Mrs. Dolloway. In 1951, Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) is a housewife on the verge of a complete breakdown. And in 2001, Clarissa (Meryl Streep) is planning a party for her dear friend and writer, Richard (Ed Harris) who is dying from AIDS. They’re connected by Virginia’s novel and the issue of suicide, in one way or another.
I would like to to call this a “woman’s issues film”; the name sounds horrible, but this isn’t stupid or romantic like a chick-flick nor is it estrogen fueled sap like a Lifetime movie. The problems these women face may look trivial at first, but the utter loneliness and despair within Laura or the need Clarissa has to take care of Richard, these problems can’t be solved with a shopping spree. Some may be completely bored by this film, the talk is quiet, not a lot of action and there’s a need to read everyone’s faces and decipher the tone of their voice. Others (myself included) will be enthralled, the characters are fascinating, full fleshed for all their good, bad and upsetting traits and their issues are genuine and personal. They won’t cause the world to stop turning (and they know it), but in a moment everything can be turned upside down or lost. That simple truth is what makes this pull on your heart and maybe even donate some tears.
Kidman’s performance as Virginia Woolf is amazing. This is Nicole like we’ve never seen her before: with frumpy hair, in an shapeless floral sack-dress. I honestly had to double check the IMDB page to make sure it really was Kidman, that fake nose went a long way. There’s more than the costume and makeup, but the way she can loose herself staring into space, the intrigued look as she studies a dead bird, it’s suddenly all Woolf and Kidman is nowhere in sight. That’s what the Best Actress is all about.
This can be a very hard film to get through. Despair and loneliness are not glossed over and suicide can be a tough subject to tackle. It is worth the view, but don’t go it alone with a pint of ice cream, it isn’t that kind of girl movie. You might be in real need of a hug. At the heart of this film, a sad, sad truth is brought out I only wish were not true: “Someone has to die in order that the rest of us should value life more. It’s contrast.”