Everywhere we go, we constantly find ourselves furious and dissatisfied with film adaptations that never seem to serve us justice… “The book is just sooooooo much better!”. But is it really fair to imprint this impression on all film adaptations of much-loved novels? The answer is NO. From the director of Billy Elliot, Stephen Daldry and his talented team on-and-off camera will prove you wrong.
It is insanely difficult for most of us, to even begin to imagine the intolerable pain derived from those who endure immense depression or those who suffer from some form of mental illness. They are locked up in a jail that resembles their mind and are unable to break free. The Hours encapsulates this emotional stress endured by women across different eras to utter perfection.
Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel written by Michael Cunningham, The Hours depicts the lives of three women in three generations along with the twisted struggles they experience – imprisoned in their hopeless souls. Australian actress Nicole Kidman (Moulin Rouge, Rabbit Hole), captures the role of Virginia Woolf in 1925, working on Mrs. Dalloway (a stream-of-consciousness novel) about the hostess of society, whose artificial nature of perfection masks her inner turmoil. Julianne Moore (The End of An Affair) portrays stereotypical American housewife, Laura Brown residing in 1951 American suburbia – a woman who feels compelled to maintain her loyalty towards her son and husband (John C. Reilly). What may seem like a contentful heart and cheerful face may possibly be something else underneath the surface. Critically acclaimed actress, Meryl Streep (Adaptation, Sophie’s Choice) as Clarissa Vaughan in 2001, neglects her partner for the chapter in her life that she is reluctant to close, whom is shared with AIDS sufferer, Richard Brown played by Ed Harris.
Kidman stands taller than the rest, delivering an extraordinary Oscar-worthy performance of astonishing courage, revealing the destructive war between her intellectual mind and the chaos revolving around her personal world. Every gesture and every facial expression convinces the audience that this character was tailor-made especially for her. Streep reflects this level of performance and as always, handles her role carefully – producing a believable performance as a result. Her switch between absolute lunacy to a cheerful hostess is measured to perfection. But there is always one that lets the team down. Moore’s approach to the complex character of Laura Brown shows that she is ‘just another pretty lady in a pretty dress’. The recurring empty face is a snooze-fest that blocks the audience from entering her state-of-mind. Last but certainly not least, it is not a surprise that the youngest member of the cast, young and adorable Ritchie Brown played by Jack Rovello, angelically lights up the screen, making us “aww” time after time, whilst stealing our vulnerable hearts with his truthfully honest words, and innocent stare. Cuuute.
Perhaps one of the most memorable scenes from the film is the opening sequence, which immediately draws attention to Virginia Woolf’s irreversible decision, intertwined with a beautifully written voiceover of a note devoted her husband that exercises our minds in preparation for the incoming wave of emotions. The three distraught women and their lives are carefully woven together into a fluid piece of artistic interpretation. But in the end every life must continue, no matter how dull it may be. Tensions crescendo. Fears arise. The once-somber mood is finally uplifted and brightened when a series of fresh, blooming flowers are shot to complete the sequence with an excellent finish.
The emotionally driven power of the themes featured in The Hours automatically select the targeted age group to mature audiences, as the multi-layered plot is possibly too chunky to digest for younger audiences. A certain fascination with mortality is explored by the female trio, who are explicitly sensitive, possessing a clear perception of the revolving world. Constant evaluations are made by each of the main characters, questioning their monotonic lifestyles. The common through-line can be identified between the victims.
David Hare’s masterfully constructed screenplay for the film stays faithful to Cunningham’s novel and the devoted fans that are attached to his work. Hare took confident risks, to approach his duty with maturity. The script produced is not afraid to treat its audience as if they were knowledgeable geniuses. The screenplay successfully communicates the moral of the narrative, that there is a never-ending variation of experiences throughout the course of one’s life, where no two days are exactly same.
The impeccable costuming, cinematographic and musical aspects of The Hours cover up the puzzling holes in the film’s plot. Costume designer Ann Roth, did a remarkable job in interpreting the personalities of the characters via fashion [which is essential in many ways], as well as painting of eras in which each scene is set in. Kidman sports a simple yet effective prosthetic nose, which allows the audience to see an unrecognisable actress, making her role that much more realistic. Seamus McGarvey’s artistically gorgeous cinematography, consisting of lingering shots on the deeply, afflicted faces of the three leading women, is probably recognised as the film’s prominent instrument.
An immaculate motion picture is presented as a result of his skillful work. Philip Glass’ exquisitely composed score is one secret and powerful weapon, which successfully accompanies the story, setting a range of moods and expressing atmospheres in a way that dialogue is occasionally unable to do so. The melodic harmonies produced by an enchanting combination of piano and strings are a vital aspect of the film, establishing and developing the characters by pouring their emotions out. This is somewhat rare in a typical Hollywood film. It is truly the flawlessly calibrated finishing touch to the magnificent creation.
Every single inch of detail and aspect of the film – from the heart-wrenchingly convincing acting performed by the majority of the cast, to the astounding screenplay and the haunting score – is attacked with intelligence, seriousness and meaningfully precise measures which ultimately produced an original and dazzling masterpiece that is The Hours. It goes without any doubt at all, that the film thoroughly deserves its showering praise and awards. The Hours is a definite must-see film of the year.