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The Hours

The Hours takes on Virginia Woolf's novel Mrs. Dalloway, the story of a supposedly perfect wife and hostess with a secret inner life — described by one of the characters as being about "this woman who's incredibly confident ... and maybe because she's incerdibly confident everyone thinks she's fine — but she isn't" — and explores it's themes as an interconnected tale of three women living one important day of their lives in very different times. Julianne Moore is Laura Brown, a 1950s housewife who's reading Dalloway and battling serious depression; Meryl Streep plays modern-day Clarissa, planning a party for her long-time friend Robert (Ed Harris), a poet dying from AIDS; and finally there's Virginia Woolf herself in 1923 as played by Nicole Kidman in a big, fake nose, wrestling her own demons on her way to her inevitable sleep with the fishes. Despite the fact that she really doesn't look like Woolf, Kidman manages to convey a sort of scruffy, bohemian nuttiness. But virtually any decent actress could have done what Kidman did, which was lower her voice, slump, smoke hand-rolled cigs, and paste on a fake honker. And while Streep is very good as Clarissa, well, Streep is always very good, and it's not like she hasn't done the high-strung WASP shtick a hundred times before. The real performance gem here is Julianne Moore as the pathologically depressed Laura, doing a brilliant job of conveying the true hell of depression. When we watch Laura sit crying in the bathroom — lost, isolated, and miserable as her clueless, cheerful husband keeps calling for her to come to bed — is perhaps the most heart-wrenching scene she's had in a movie to date. Frustrating and affecting in equal measure, The Hours offers world-class performances and a plot that's pounded down with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, pointing out that out that some people, no matter how close we are to them, are unknowable in the dark lives they live inside their own heads. Paramount's "Special Collector's Edition" offers a very good anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) with clear Dolby Digital 5.0 audio. Extras include two commentary tracks (one with the three main actresses, the other with director Stephen Daldry and Hours novelist Michael Cunningham); four behind-the-scenes featurettes; a "filmmaker's introduction"; and the theatrical trailer. Keep-case.
—Dawn Taylor

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