In honor of Virginia Woolf and her difficult but occasionally rewarding style, I’m not going to write a review of Stephen Daldry’s “The Hours” based on Michael Cunningham’s novel, which drew inspiration from Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway”.
And much like the Woolf’s novel (and that opening paragraph), the movie is layered and at times frustrating. So this time around, I’m just going to write some thoughts down that will hopefully all gel together at the end.
Woolf would be so proud.
I love these characters; I love them so much that I didn’t like the movie because it kept cutting away from them to move on to other people. I started to resent it, that it just couldn’t tell the story straight. That I couldn’t spend more time with these characters. I even got a little mad when it ended, because I had to say goodbye and I wasn’t ready. I don’t think it’s a good sign when you only like the pieces that make up the film, but not the film itself.
I kept having unpleasant flashbacks to “Mrs. Dalloway,” a book I hated reading because I couldn’t read it fast, in a blur like I normally read, that I had to slowdown and read it in pieces. I kept fading in and out of the novel, I couldn’t concentrate on the story, but it was for school, a class I hated, so I stuck with it. Even got an A in the class, though I was bored out of mind the majority of the time.
The flashbacks kept bringing up the novel, trying to piece together what I had willingly forgot, what I gave up, like the characters here, who give up sanity, lives and loves for peace of mind. From what pieces I could remember, I kept thinking of how Julianne Moore’s Laura is a “Mrs. Dalloway” and how Meryl Streep is the anti-”Mrs. Dalloway,” the one who took the path and the one who strayed, but they’re both miserable in the end, and even when they swap choices, they stay the same; despite their circumstances and eras, they are the same character, and Nicole Kidman’s Virginia Woolf writes out their doom 30 years, 60 years before the events even took place.
It all comes back to Woolf, her suicide opens and closes the movie, her life or death choice, the same choice she imparts to all of her (and Cunningham’s) characters, she makes with a clear if muddled mind. Just like them. I love them for their choices and regrets, I love them because they’re so recognizably human, I love them because I love them, because I want to see more of them, and I hate this damn movie for ending too soon, just like I hated “Mrs. Dalloway” for not ending soon enough. Most of all, I hate that I’m probably going to take another crack at the book, maybe now it won’t seem like such a chore.
Right after I read “The Hours” and get to spend some more time with these characters I love.
“The Hours” (2003)
Directed by Stephen Daldry
Written by David Hare
Starring: Meryl Streep (Clarissa Vaughan)
Julianne Moore (Laura Brown)
Nicole Kidman (Virginia Woolf)