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The Hours
Reviewed by Quiet Seagull

Is it Nicole Kidman's lifetime performance?  Possibly.  Meryl Streep and
Julianne Moore, always excellent, Streep often brilliant, also surpass
themselves.  All three must be nominated for Oscars; Kidman should be a
shoo-in.  Kidman has defined Virginia Woolff probably as accurately as can
realistically be expected.  She, Moore, and Streep so immerse themselves in
their characters that their own identity is hardly recognizable. 
Stanislavski is smiling.

What can the day in the life of three women reveal?  What can a day in the
life of anyone reveal?  A day in the life of the artist?  A day in the life
of a housewife, the stereotypical, quintessential housewife?  And what does a
day in the life of the artist's fictional character reveal?

Our own psyches stalk us all and only a flimsy barrier separates our
desperation from our sanity.  Through Kidman, we live Virginia Woolff's
struggle to maintain that barrier, at least until she could finish her last
book, Mrs. Dalloway, after which she succumbed to her demons and sought peace
in death.

Mental illness is sometimes a terminal disease about which its victims have
no more control than a terminal cancer patient.  Or is it mental illness at
all?  Woolff's doctors said it was in her case and undertook to advise her
against her own will which they dismissed as untrustworthy.  She poignantly
argues that she and she alone could know what was best for her.  In the end,
she chooses absolute escape.

Moore's character, Laura Brown, trapped in a loving but loveless marriage, in
the day-to-day existence of a suburban housewife, tries, but is unable to
make the same escape as Woolff, even as she reads Woolff's Mrs. Dalloway. 
But, nevertheless, her failure forces her to abandon her husband and only son
whom she leaves for Clarissa Vaughan, Streep's character, to care for as an

Ed Harris masterfully plays Richard Brown, a dying artist, former lover of 
Vaughan.  Our modern day Clarissa spends her life's energy keeping Brown
alive, physically and mentally, but only just.  He rails against her and
taunts her by claiming she doesn't have the courage to let him die and escape
his misery.  She retorts that that is what people do, live for each other.

Woolff lives for Mrs. Dalloway.  Laura Brown lives for her family and her
son, but cannot bear it and abandons him.  Clarissa lives for the abandoned,
wounded Richard.  All trapped.

Screenwriter David Hare, Director Stephen Daldry,  dramatize Michael
Cunningham's novel, The Hours, and show the intense battle that must be
fought by some simply to get through the day, whether artist, housewife, or
professional.  The battle plays out in different ways for different people,
but it is there for us all.  Some of us don't win it.  Some of us are lucky
for a draw.

And a word must be said about this film's editing.  Scenes and sequences,
often without dialogue, bring an intense sense of immediacy and emotion
through masterful cuts and skilful placement of shots. 

There is always the question of whether scientists or artists interpret the
world more accurately.  The viewer comes away from this film with the feeling
that in this case the artist got it right,  even as Thoreau told us long ago:
 "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."

This film is more rewarding on the second viewing.


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