February 20, 2003

Mundane Heroism

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The Hours is not a film for the optimist nor the feeble hearted, and although it portrays the life of a Victorian author, this is no mere ‘chick flick.’ The main characters (Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, and Julianne Moore) are female heroines of an odd sort; they are heroines solely for maintaining sanity while remaining quasi-alive.

An adaptation of Michael Cunningham’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Hours reveals intimate mental journeys of three women living in different decades of the twentieth century. The film demonstrates that no matter the time period, strikingly similar mental quandaries of seemingly together women will be the sole thing capable of enduring the endless hours of time which make up a life. Sounds a bit sullen doesn’t it? I do not recommend going to this film to lift one’s spirits, but that is not to say that the film is not extraordinarily performed and cinematographically displayed.

The settings are Richmond, England, suburban California, and Manhattan. The intricate plot twists that enable the three drastically different lifestyles of the families living within these quarters to hold such parallelisms are brilliant.

The back alleys of London’s suburbs hold true to their beauty throughout the film, as do the illustrious gardens within their boundaries. The costumes hold true to their time periods as well, although perhaps overly so with the decadent glitziness of the 1950’s Los Angeles “I live in LA and work near the film industry,” air. The dreary plot and melancholy themes are not overdone with colorless dull settings and facial expressions, but the camera angles and color schemes do, at times, aid in enhancing the film’s gloomy outlook.

Character attachment is inevitable if you choose to indulge yourself fully in the plot, and although you might think that the opening scene reveals too much in displaying Woolf’s brash suicide, it in fact makes it that much more important for the viewer to pay attention to the details. You will find yourself attempting to piece together how these three women are related to one another, aside from the fact that Woolf is writing her most notable work, Mrs. Dalloway, and the two more modern women are reading or have been highly influenced by their reading of that very same novel.

Virginia Woolf’s life and death are central to the film’s plot line, and although a prior understanding of her life is helpful for easier comprehension of what occurs, it is not nearly essential to enjoy nor comprehend the unraveling of the lives of the various delicate female characters, including Woolf’s very own.

The film is not only a portrayal of the daily struggles that these women endure, but also the struggles of their male counterparts who, perhaps, are rendered as too na