The Hours Review
By Shawn McKenzie 02/14/2003
I don’t understand depression. I’ve always thought of depression as how you get when things are going bad. You know…you lose your job, someone close to you dies, you break up with someone, etc. Some people just like to stew in depression though, for no understandable reason. Usually these people have to take medicine for their depression, while the people who actually have reasons to be depressed learn to deal with their problems without medicine. One thing I can certainly tell you is that if you are currently depressed…do not go see The Hours. It won’t help your state of mind.
The movie takes place over three time periods and centers on three women with similar lives. The first one takes place in Richmond, England in 1923. English author Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman) is trying to write her latest novel, Mrs. Dalloway. She had moved to Richmond from London with her husband Leonard (Stephen Dillane), because Leonard thought it might help her get over her depression (which it hasn’t.) She is planning a party, and she hopes that the early visit by her sister, Vanessa Bell (Miranda Richardson), and Vanessa’s children can raise her out of her intense depression (no dice again.) The second time period takes place in Los Angeles in 1951. Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) is a depressed housewife. She has a loving and supportive husband, Dan (John C. Reilly), and young son, Richie (Jack Rovello), who loves his mommy a lot. Laura apparently feels she is stuck in this horribly happy family as she is awaiting her and Dan’s next child to arrive (which is four months away.) Baking a birthday cake for her husband makes her almost suicidal. Laura’s neighbor, Kitty (Toni Collette), who has to go to the hospital to be checked out on an ailment that might have contributed in her not able to have children, visits her, and the fact that there is a friend of hers with real problems doesn’t get Laura out of her depression. The third time period takes place in New York City in 2001. Clarissa Vaughan (Meryl Streep) is a lesbian book editor who's busy planning a party for her former lover, Richard (Ed Harris), a gay man who's in the last stages of AIDS. He's calls her “Mrs. Dalloway” because the character in the book is named Clarissa and she shares the character’s need to throw parties and look after others, but she's not happy herself. Clarissa lives with her girlfriend, Sally (Allison Janney), who doesn’t understand why Clarissa is so sad. Her depression appears to confuse her daughter, Julia (Claire Danes), and an old friend, Louis (Jeff Daniels), an ex-boyfriend of Richard. The three stories intertwine as they display the parallels in their lives (plus Laura and Clarissa both read Mrs. Dalloway.)
I think Clarissa was the only one of the three women who had a reason to be depressed. She was watching a person she cared about wasting away. Otherwise, she had great friends and family. Virginia and Laura didn’t have any good reasons to be depressed. One could say that they were struggling with their desire to live out their repressed lesbian tendencies (Laura with Kitty and Virginia with a friend), but other than that, I was confused. Neither Leonard nor Dan were bad guys. I guess you have to have that goth state of mind to understand why they were so depressed.
The acting in this movie was great, if you are in the mood to see accurate portrayals of depressed people. As much press as Kidman has gotten over the prosthetic nose, I think it lends to the performance. I hear that Moore’s character in this movie is similar to her character in Far from Heaven, and that it is a better one than this one in The Hours (I haven’t seen Far from Heaven, so I’ll have to make that judgment when I see it.) As far as Streep goes, while I liked her in this movie, I think her character in Adaptation is far more interesting.
If you are the type that listens to the Cure and wears black fingernail polish and black lipstick, you might worship The Hours. As for me, a generally happy person, so it didn’t do much for me. I’m curious…why do the Oscars love depression? Why did Stephen Daldry, the director of the uplifting film Billy Elliot, pick this movie to direct? I will say that The Hours never bored me (unlike the other Oscar frontrunner, Chicago; see my review of that movie), but it didn’t leave me satisfied in the least. I have had my share of dark days, but I usually find a way to get over them. This movie would not help in that process.
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