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The Hours

Stephen Daldry

The Hours
"Mrs. Dalloway said that she would buy the flowers herself in the morning," and thus begins the densely filled journey of The Hours, Stephen Daldry's highly engrossing examination into the lives and minds of three separate women, each indelibly tied to Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway — one (Julianne Moore) because she's reading it, circa 1952, one (Meryl Streep) because she's living it, circa 2000, and one (Nicole Kidman) because she's writing it. Though the film is deeply rooted in the ephemeral, what keeps it from being mired in boredom, and separates it from your average chick flick, is the way that it engrossingly goes about treating the subtle complexities of the everyday working lives of women. In fact, you may never look at preparing a dinner party in quite the same way again. Based on Michael Cunningham's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and adapted for the screen by theatre scribe David Hare (who knows a thing or two about contemporary female angst-examination — Plenty, anyone?), the film manages to establish a lyrical melancholic mood without drowning us in sadness and regret. Much of the credit must be given to Hare, who so beautifully and seamlessly takes us through the different time periods, though it doesn't hurt that it stars three of the most accomplished actresses working in film today. This is a film made by grown-ups, for grown-ups, which is filled with so many grown-ups that you begin to wonder whether Claire Danes's role wasn't offered first to Elaine Stritch. Those looking to plumb beyond the emotional depths of the film will find much here. For the more literary-focused, there's a documentary on Virginia Woolf, as well as commentary by Cunningham, both of which should satisfy. The musical scoring of the film is also discussed at some length. Though I found Phillip Glass' largely piano-filled score plodding and intrusive, his comments on the characters' existential exploration were insightful, almost more so than those of the three actresses. And as a final note to the cognoscenti, Aileen Atkins figures prominently. Extras: commentary; featurette; trailer. (Paramount)
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