The first time I saw this movie was sometime back in 2003 on A&E and I can’t forget thinking how bleak it was, but not in a bad way. There are a lot of things I like about this movie, but what I like the most is the acting. Every actor in the movie give outstanding performances making me think it was the best ensemble of 2002. It’s hard, and unfair, to judge the performances against each other but the standout performance for me in many ways was Meryl Streep’s Clarissa Vaughn. The Academy love her so much and yet they couldn’t nominate for this. This is arguably my favourite Streep performance, it may not be as good as others, but it’s still pretty damn good. Her Clarissa is the most sympathetic protagonist of the three part story and she has some really strong scenes especially those with another big star – Ed Harris. I am still pissed that Harris did not win the Oscar he deserved for Best Supporting Actor that year, it was way better than that other actor. Claire Danes, Jeff Bridges and Alison Janey who are also participants in Clarissa’s arc also play important roles and give strong performances.
If Streep plays the most sympathetic I guess that ostensibly Julianne Moore plays the least sympathetic, but that’s such a cop out in terms of judging her performance. Julianne Moore is really, really, really a good actress. Of all the actors in The Hours she achieves the most with the least. Just looking at her eyes we see so much more, which prevents her Laura from become a caricature… and that voice. It’s just freakin’ wonderful. A completely deserving Oscar nomination followed – and don’t you know it sometimes I wish she had won the Oscar even though I was supporting Catherine at the time. She has the most poignant line of the whole movie for me when she says It was death, I chose life. Toni Collette is the only person in this arc that really wows me (other than Julianne), this is my favourite performance of hers, I never saw as this kind of coquettish character, although I suppose coquettish is the wrong word...
Then there is Nicole Kidman’s Virginia Woolf, who invisibly, holds the narrative together. It is her Mrs. Dalloway that Laura is reading… that Clarissa has become. Virginia is really a troubled character, and although I know many people will identify the train scene as there favourite there are two other scenes which show the wonderfulness of Nicole Kidman’s performance. There’s the scene where she is cajoling Nelly into going to London. It’s just so freakishly weird, and uncomfortable as she tries to command her with her eyes and that taunting tone and expression with the cigarette in hand. Then there is the scene with Miranda Richardson, no not kiss. It’s when she tells her, even crazy people like to be asked Nessa. This line, I think, represents the entire point of Virginia’s arc. The problem is not that she is crazy, but at least let others treat her as a person… and oh wasn’t Miranda Richardson outstanding? Don’t you wish Oscars were given for cameos? I almost wish she’d have a movie of this character; she was so effective as the Woolf’s sister. Kudos too to Stephen Dillane who played Leonard, Kidman’s husband.
All the actors in The Hours need to thank David Hare for his wonderful script. The novel seems almost inadaptable, but he is able to make it just wonderful and gives each character so much to do. And let’s not forget Stephen Daldry. Some have criticised his lack of subtlety, but that’s not the point of the movie… or maybe it is, who knows. Still, you can’t really fault him. If they HAD to split the director/picture category in 2002, couldn’t they have given it to him? Or at least give the Oscar to Philip Glass for his amazing score. Anyway, that’s all gone, but this movie remains.
The Hours is a great movie, and I think everyone needs to see it – I suppose it won’t be for everyone, but you won’t know until you see it… so you should see it.