The Hours Reviews
While I persist that The Hours should be applauded for its scope, this proves regrettably to be its undoing. Its scattershot mix of three separate protagonists across three divergent timelines never allows any one to be fully developed or understood. Likewise, the film dabbles in queer themes and subjectivity but brings these to no satisfying conclusion. Whilst all three female protagonists share some form of queer interaction with another character, these events are quickly forgotten and never revisited, making them seem token or a missed opportunity. This lacking detail in character and motivation can similarly confuse dialogue and cast relationships. Consider the scene where Clarissa Vaughan (Meryl Streep) and Louis Waters (Jeff Daniels) are recalling their relationships with the poet Richard Brown (played by Ed Harris). What spark in their relationship has left Streep's character so undone? Why has she continued to dote on him a decade on? Her emotional breakdown here, while admittedly well-acted, feels uncomfortably out of place when the only interaction we have had with Harris to this point has shown him to be a curmudgeonly, bullying and difficult figure. What trauma or mental unwell has forced Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) to such inescapable melancholy? How has she both abandoned her son and kept in touch in the intervening years? There exists a great narrative here, there may well be three. But without giving any one the room to breathe, all are equally suffocated.
Like its namesake novel, The Hours pays direct homage to famed feminist author Virginia Woolf, and in particular her 1925 novel Mrs. Dalloway. In fact, Woolf herself appears as a major protagonist (played by Nicole Kidman) in what is undoubtedly the standout performance of the film. Reviewers will no doubt make a great deal of this literary pedigree and with good reason. Yet, having not read either novel, my persistent feelings of lacking context and missed understanding made me wonder as though they might be required reading. Perhaps they hold the missing plot points and character insights the film did not or could not afford me. Were this the case, I do not believe it unfair to admonish The Hours as a work unto itself - a film must function as a film first.