The captivating story of three women from different eras whose lives are transformed by the timeless power of a masterful novel.
Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Ed Harris, Alison Janney, John C. Reilly, Stephen Dillane, Miranda Richardson
David Hare, based on the novel by Michael Cunningham
Our lives. Our story.
Budget $25 million.
Opening weekend $338,622 on 11 screens.
Domestic gross $41.597 million.
Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements, some disturbing images and brief language.
Won for Best Actress-Nicole Kidman.
Nominated for Best Picture; Best Director; Best Supporting Actress-Julianne Moore; Best Supporting Actor-Ed Harris; Best Screenplay; Best Editing; Best Score-Philip Glass.
English Dolby Digital 5.0
English Dolby Surround
French Digital Stereo
Runtime: 114 min.
Release Date: 6/24/2003
• Commentary by Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore and Nicole Kidman
• Commentary by Director Stephen Daldry & Novelist Michael Cunningham
• Introduction by the Filmmakers
• Theatrical Trailer
• 4 Featurettes
TV - Mitsubishi CS-32310 32";
Subwoofer - JBL PB12;
DVD Player - Toshiba SD-4700;
Receiver - Sony STR-DE845;
Center - Polk Audio CS175i;
Front Channels - Polk Audio;
Rear Channels - Polk Audio.
The Hours (2002)
Reviewed by David Williams (July 7, 2003)
The Hours is a brilliant take on Michael Cunningham’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, 1998’s “The Hours”, inspired by Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway” – a book that she hoped would convey “a woman’s life in a single day”. It is three inter-related stories about three different women living in three different eras and each of their stories takes place over the course of a single day. The book, as well as the film, cuts back and forth between three places and times – each with its own heroine – and it presents the viewer with an emotionally engaging puzzle to piece together. The Hours is about three women whose lives are mysteriously linked not only by the printed word, but also by common beliefs and passions, and we will masterfully see these three stories come together throughout the course of the film. The Hours shows us the real, everyday elements that make up life and how those patterns repeat and reverberate across time – many times with traumatic results.
The film opens with the suicide of one of its main characters, Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman), who composes a farewell note to her husband and then proceeds to drown herself in a nearby river in 1941. The film quickly steps back in time to the 1920’s where we find a younger Woolf, recently suffering from a complete mental and emotional breakdown, working on her novel “Mrs. Dalloway” (1925). Her husband, Leonard (Stephen Dillane), has decided that removing her from the hectic pace of London will revive her soul and therefore, they are living out a quiet existence in the suburb of Richmond. What he doesn’t realize is that Woolf despises the solitude and she is slowly sinking deeper and deeper into a severe depression and living her life vicariously through her fictional character of “Mrs. Dalloway”.
The story then fast forwards to the idealistic 1950’s and it’s here we meet Laura Brown (Julianne Moore), a housewife, a mother, and an expectant mother, who is dealing with her own case of depression that is slowly eating her alive. While reading Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway”, Brown attempts to work through her own emotional crisis, while at the same time, fighting off her suicidal urges. The book seems to be the only thing in her life worth living for and even though she has a loving husband, Dan (John C. Reilly), who has just returned from World War II, as well as a precious son, Richard (Jack Rovello), life is simply becoming too complicated for her and the only solace she finds is in the timeless words of Virginia Woolf.
Current day Manhattan is our next stop and we’re introduced to Clarissa Vaughan (Meryl Streep) and she is living out “Mrs. Dalloway” rather than reading it. She’s a lesbian who has been in a somewhat lengthy and meaningful relationship with her partner, Sally (Allison Janney), and the two are planning a party for a dying friend and poet, Richard (Ed Harris). Richard, also gay and dying of AIDS, is going to be receiving a “lifetime achievement” award for his body of work and Clarissa’s party is being planned so his friends are around to enjoy the award with him. Richard has even nicknamed Clarissa “Mrs. Dalloway” because her life bears such a resemblance to that of Woolf’s protagonist. We learn that even though Richard and Clarissa are currently living in homosexual relationships, the two had a romantic fling many years ago and it’s obvious that they still have strong feelings for each other.
While The Hours is rife with suicidal musings and emotionally draining material, the correlation between Virginia, Laura and Clarissa’s lives is fascinating. The film tells its story as a complex conundrum – complete with ambiguity and uneasiness as it searches for answers to some of life’s impenetrable dilemmas. With Cunningham’s book and Daldry’s film, we are given an artistically sound means for exploring life, death, mental illness/instability, and sexuality and we see how the choices we make today reverberate throughout time.
From the superb direction of Billy Elliot’s Stephen Daldry to the gorgeous cinematography of Seamus McGarvey to the hauntingly beautiful score of Philip Glass, The Hours has all the right elements to keep us engaged. However, add to the aforementioned elements superb performances by Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, and Nicole Kidman (who, incidentally, won the Best Actress Oscar for the role) and you’ve got a sure-fire winner. Kidman and Moore give the stand out performances here, as Kidman brings a vagueness and depressed subtlety to her role that is nothing short of amazing and Moore loses herself behind the sad and lonely eyes of a middle-class housewife who feels the weight of the world is firmly upon her shoulders and just can’t take it any more. Streep’s performance, while good, didn’t seem to be much of a stretch however. Even so, all of the performances are top notch and just make the film that much more enjoyable.
Supporting performances were just as amazing, as Ed Harris plays a dying and tragic poet ravaged with AIDS with Jeff Daniels deftly playing the role of his partner. John C. Reilly, always a treat, is a naive WWII vet who has no idea the pain and suffering his wife is going through and Stephen Dillane stars as Woolf’s accommodating and tolerating husband. The entire cast is worthy of mention, but I’ll leave that to the credits - or IMDB - if it’s all the same.
While The Hours may sound like nothing more than a glorified, big screen soap opera, it’s so much more than that – it shows the impact of middle-aged angst and what happens when some come to the sad realization that they’re just a small part of a grandiose mystery called life and that no matter what they do, there are certain things that they simply have no control over. It’s amazing to watch the connections between the three women unfold across time and The Hours is definitely worthy of all of the accolades it received.
The DVD Grades: Picture A- / Audio B / Bonus B+
The Hours is presented in an anamorphically enhanced widescreen presentation in the film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Paramount’s transfer looks quite grand and is as stout as you’d expect such a recent film from a major studio to look. The film wasn’t a big spectacle or an overly hyped blockbuster, so you might expect the studio to overlook the DVD transfer – well, you’d be wrong, as Paramount has given The Hours a fine looking transfer that is as good as anything I have ever seen coming from the studio.
The image was very tight and detailed and maintained a very strong presence throughout the nearly two-hours of running time. This is even more impressive when you consider that the DVD contains two commentaries as part of its supplements package that are taking up a lot of room on the solitary platter. The cinematography by Seamus McGarvey was rendered accurately and faithfully, as the hues were very earthy and practical, with excellent balance and contrast throughout. Colors were rather drab and earthy, but fit the material at hand quite nicely and they remained properly balanced and contrasted throughout. Black levels were spot on and there was never any breakup or murkiness noted and this allowed for excellent shadow detail and delineation at all times. The Hours maintained a very film-like, three-dimensional appearance and was quite pleasing to watch.
Flaws noted in the print were run-of-the-mill, as some very slight edge enhancement was seen, as was some grain in some of the lower lit scenes. All in all however, it was nothing to concern yourself with and Paramount has provided viewers with one very fine presentation.
Paramount has given The Hours a Dolby Digital 5.0 audio transfer that is lacking a .1 LFE channel to beef up the proceedings. While the lack of significant low-end doesn’t really hurt the film too much, it was still a surprise to see such a recent release lacking a .1 channel.
The Hours displayed nice fidelity and separation across the front soundstage, without much activity noted in the rears. Rear activity was heard from time to time, but it was very limited and nothing overly impressive by any stretch. As you might have imagined, effects were somewhat restricted as well and the film had no need to offer up any moments of overly impressive sonic activity. Dialogue was crystal clear and was perfectly balanced with all of the other elements in the track and harshness or edginess were never a problem. Philip Glass’ eerie score was given appropriate treatment, but a bit more robustness and fullness in the transfer would have really helped. Ambience was a bit lacking as well and while the film’s transfer was a far cry from perfect, it worked well enough for the material. All in all, The Hours was a pleasing aural experience.
Paramount has also added English and French Dolby 2.0 Surround mixes, as well as English subtitles.
Paramount has added a nice roster of supplements to compliment The Hours that really add value to the DVD and make it a much stronger buy than it might have normally been.
Paramount has added two audio commentaries for the film, with the first being an Audio Commentary with director Stephen Daldry and novelist Michael Cunningham and this was an absolutely enlightening and engaging listen. It gives listeners a very in-depth discussion on the challenges – and rewards - of adapting a popular novel to the big screen. We get some really great information on the processes involved and the changes that had to be made to turn “The Hours”, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, into The Hours the Academy Award-winning film. A really great listen and Daldry and Cunningham do a marvelous job holding our interest.
The second selection is an Audio Commentary with actresses Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore and Meryl Streep. Unfortunately, the group was recorded separately and then edited together to make the commentary complete. There were longs gaps of silence heard in the commentary and while not as engaging had the three actresses been able to play off of each other, the commentary was more often entertaining than not. All three actresses submit interesting anecdotes and information from the set of the film and while slightly disappointing, the commentary should be considered a must listen for fans of The Hours.
After the commentaries, we have a Filmmakers Introduction (2:05), which gives us a quickie introduction to the film and its powerful material from director Stephen Daldry and he gives us a nice preamble to the film and the emotions he was trying to evoke in the viewer.
Three Women (15:55) is next and it’s a great look behind the scenes of The Hours and the women cast to play the three main roles in the film. Using interview snippets, clips from the film, and clips from behind the scenes, we learn a good bit about the casting and rehearsal process, why the actresses were chosen, and how the individual actresses viewed their parts. We also learn a bit about some of the bit players, but the main focus remains on the three actresses and Daldry. Interviews here are included with Stephen Daldry (Director), Nicole Kidman (Virginia Woolf), Julianne Moore (Laura Brown), and Meryl Streep (Clarissa Vaughan).
The Mind and Times of Virginia Woolf follows and is definitely the most intriguing piece on the disc. Through some archival footage and interviews with contemporaries, biographers, and historians, we learn a great deal about the influential author and her very depressing and fascinating life. I don’t want to go into an all-out history lesson here, but rest assured that the documentary is quite interesting, engaging, and surprisingly thorough. Great stuff.
Next up is The Music of The Hours (7:09) and the title pretty much implies what the feature is about. Using clips from the film and some interview snippets, we get a really nice discussion on the themes found in the film and how music was needed – and successfully used – to create and generate an emotional response from the viewer. Composer Philip Glass is the main focus here and he gives an absolutely spectacular discussion and dissection of why he chose the instruments he did and the theme/style he tried to echo throughout. Interviews here are conducted with Stephen Daldry (Director), David Hare (Screenwriter), and Philip Glass (Composer).
The last featurette is entitled The Lives of Mrs. Dalloway (9:41) and here, we get an interesting discussion from Stephen Daldry (Director), Michael Cunningham (Author/Novelist) and David Hare (Screenwriter) and the trio discuss the influence that Virginia Woolf has had on their life and their work as filmmakers/novelists. The discussions center around the influence of women in art and how they came about writing the book and/or adapting it for the big screen. It’s a really interesting discussion – especially from Cunningham – and Lives provides a dynamic discussion on Virginia Woolf and the inspiration for The Hours.
Finishing off Paramount’s DVD are the film’s Theatrical Trailer, as well as Previews for other Paramount films, which oddly enough, only includes a trailer for How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days.
As I said before, The Hours is worthy of each and every accolade lavished upon it and Paramount has given it a DVD to match. Highly recommended.
Viewer Film Ratings: 4.2222 Stars|| Number of Votes: 54|