Sun. Feb 5th, 2023

Whereas the hype and fanfare round movie awards ceremonies receives a great deal of justified criticism, it’s unfair to categorize a sure subsect of movies as nothing greater than an “Oscar bait.” Significantly within the days earlier than the Finest Image class was expanded to 10 nominees, the Academy Awards tended to be dominated by severely minded interval items, a lot of which had been both primarily based or impressed by novels. The Hours is commonly cited because the quintessential instance of “Oscar bait;” it’s a interval piece that wrestles with related points relating to gender dynamics and psychological well being that encompasses a forged filled with A-list actors giving very showy performances. It’s additionally a masterful, deeply transferring contemplation on the passage of time that deserves to be remembered extra than simply being “that film the place Nicole Kidman has a pretend nostril.”


What Is ‘The Hours’ About?

Picture by way of Paramount Footage

Based mostly on the novel by Michael Cunningham, The Hours tells an intertwining narrative set throughout three timelines. Whereas the tales aren’t particularly related, they every discover the methods (each immediately and inadvertently) that the traditional 1925 novel Mrs. Dalloway impacts a feminine character. In 1923, the novel’s creator, Virginia Woolf (Kidman), suffers by way of a number of nervous breakdowns as she writes her eventual masterpiece. In 1951, the struggling housewife Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) reads Mrs. Dalloway as she grows to see the falsity within the “American dream” and feels ignored by her veteran husband Dan (John C. Reilly); in 2001, literary professor Clarissa Vaughan (Meryl Streep) struggles to arrange a proper awards ceremony for her very long time good friend Richie Brown (Ed Harris), a suicidal poet recognized with AIDS that refers to her as “Mrs. Dalloway.”

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The Hours obtained comparatively constructive opinions on the time of its launch, however its awards probabilities had been largely predetermined by its topic materials and setting. The movie appeared like a somewhat compulsory nominee for Finest Image, and compared to the wild musical adaptation Chicago, the epic crime story Gangs of New York, the gripping Holocaust drama The Pianist, and the exhilarating fantasy sequel The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, it definitely felt just like the least thrilling movie in competitors. The movie obtained 9 Academy Award nominations, with Kidman successful her first Finest Actress prize (in what some thought-about a make-up win for her loss the earlier 12 months in Moulin Rouge!). Nevertheless, The Hours is a much more fascinating movie than it is given credit score for, and we’d be fortunate to see such a finely-crafted interval piece now.

The Anthology Construction Helps the Film Excel

The concept of three intersecting tales that aren’t immediately associated to at least one one other could not appear that formidable, but it surely’s a comparatively fascinating framework in comparison with its contemporaries. The anthology format is fashionable in different genres, together with crime (Wild Tales), horror (Lifeless of Night time), science fiction (Cloud Atlas), experimental (Coffees and Cigarettes), comedy (Film 43), and suspense (Twilight Zone: The Film), however a interval drama (significantly one that features modern components) was fairly completely different. It’s fascinating that there isn’t an try and bridge the connection for the viewers by way of apparent parallels; these ladies’s lives are solely tangentially associated by way of thematic subtext.

The three timelines additionally enable director Stephen Daldry to discover the seedy underbelly of every period; the beautiful costuming by Ann Roth and rating by Hugh Glass masks the psychological well being points that “well mannered society” doesn’t need to tackle. Woolf, Brown, and Vaughan all dwell in seemingly “perfect” environments as a famed creator, profitable housewife, and educated professor, however regardless of their respective platforms, they aren’t capable of tackle how they actually really feel. It’s fascinating to see how although the world grows extra superior within the close to century that passes, the problems keep the identical. Ladies are nonetheless not given the power to overtly speak about despair, and the results are simply as dire as they all the time had been.

Highly effective Performances

Maybe the pretend nostril had a lifetime of its personal in fashionable tradition (and would virtually grow to be an immediate meme on “Movie Twitter” in the present day), however Kidman’s efficiency is amongst her greatest. Kidman has such a pure magnificence to her that she simply captures the intelligence of a classical creator, however not like many interval items, her dramatic breakdowns don’t really feel overly staged. There’s an intimate vacancy to Virginia’s life. The conversations she shares along with her husband, Leonard (Stephen Dillane), delicately focus on suicide as if it was simply one other literary time period.

Moore could have gone on to win an Oscar for her extra showy, broad efficiency in Nonetheless Alice, however she’s much more haunting right here as a fading, middle-aged lady whose goals slowly dissipate as she accepts her actuality. The idyllic setting of a Fifties household residence underscores how difficult it’s for Brown to talk out; that is peacetime and her husband is a veteran, and thus her points with conception and the grueling nature of home life aren’t handled with the identical gravity.

Streep can also be fairly robust as a straight-laced, celebrated member of excessive society that’s pressured to recount her checkered previous, but it surely’s actually Harris who makes this section of the story so fascinating. Harris is usually forged because the voice of cause or individual in command, so seeing him as an embittered man raging towards the little time he has left was completely surprising. It’s solely after a sequence of genuinely surprising revelations that the viewers grows to grasp his anger, and why he feels he should speak with Vaughan as he reaches the ultimate moments of his life.

What Are We Lacking?

The Hours is simply over 20 years outdated, however in some methods it feels just like the kind of movie that may battle in the present day. We so usually see mid-budget movies, interval items, and anthology tales relegated to the miniseries format, as audiences are much less prone to see these movies in theaters, and studios are much more unlikely to put money into movies that put ladies on the middle. When wanting on the underperformance of Ladies Speaking this 12 months, it’s odd to do not forget that The Hours made a major sufficient dent within the basic discourse throughout its 12 months of launch.

Daldry shouldn’t be an ideal filmmaker, and different movies he’s made like The Reader and Extraordinarily Loud and Extremely Shut definitely fall right into a extra egregious class of “Oscar bait” when the filmmaking doesn’t do justice to the necessary topic materials. Nevertheless, The Hours is a soul-piercing work, and it’s simpler to make enjoyable of it than it’s to have interaction with the uncomfortable concepts that it’s unpacking.

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