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Cigarette manufactures
were shocked to find out
that The Hours would
finally reveal the enlargement
effect years of smoking
can have on a movie star's
nose.

The Hours
Review written by: Alex Sandell

The Hours nearly manages to convince you that it's a really good film.  Through fast edits and loosely connected storylines involving three troubled women, you may overlook the fact that you're watching what is essentially, If these Walls Could Talk 3.  But when you begin to digest it, the picture comes unraveled and reveals itself to be a mediocre movie with some excellent lines and three incredible leading actresses, none of whom are on top of their game in the film. 

The first of the three stories stars Nicole Kidman, portraying the non-fictional character, Virginia Woolf.  The segment takes place in the 1920's and is the high-point of the picture.  Almost anyone who has lived in a small-town, while longing for a more adventurous life in the city, will be able to identify with Virginia's plight when she is forced to move out of her beloved London to a drab suburb in hopes that the less scintillating environment will keep her psychological demons at bay.  While trapped in this wretched realm of small-talk and smaller IQs, Virginia writes the book, Mrs. Dalloway.  This book is the gimmick ... er ... "tie" that binds Virginia's story with the other two featured in the film. 

The second story features Julianne Moore as Laura Brown, a bored housewife in the 1950s, desperately in need of a new life.  Laura feels inadequate as a wife and a mother, and only finds comfort in reading Woolf's, Mrs. Dalloway.  Although this section of the film isn't bad, and may be quite enjoyable for inadequate mothers around the world, I found myself more interested in the Pillsbury product placement that was placed between Laura Brown and a friend during what is supposed to be a pivotal moment in the film.  If you look closely, you'll notice that the bag of flour magically moves itself from facing toward the camera to away from it, all in the course of a single on-screen conversation. 

The third story takes place in 2001, and features Meryl Streep as Clarissa Vaughan, a lady who has actually earned the nickname, "Mrs. Dalloway," due to her confident exterior and conflicted insides.  Clarissa spends so much time helping her ex-lover, Richard (Ed Harris) live out his last days with AIDS as comfortably as he can, that she doesn't have a moment to think of herself.  Her story is at times the most gripping in the film, but it also has some of the movies least interesting moments and characters.  Meryl Streep herself does a fine job, as is expected, but even she can't completely save this third, and final, piece of the puzzle that is, The Hours

The Hours was better suited as a novel, and could possibly work as a really good play.  As it is, a decent screenplay is seemingly destroyed by a distracting editing job from Peter Boyle and a garish soundtrack by Philip Glass.  Boyle's fast paced editing style clashes with a story which is slow and pondering.  Worse yet is Philip Glass's soundtrack.  It's hard to imagine what went through the filmmaker's minds when they gave this guy the gig, but his incessant music cranking out during every scene in the film is unforgivable and impossible to ignore. 

Apparently the producers thought that with Boyle's editing and Glass's screeching musical nightmare, The Hours would appear to be larger than the sum of its parts.  Although we're watching a simple character study on the screen, we're listening to a booming score better suited for the dramatic scenes in Star Wars and an editing job better suited for any of the countless Pulp Fiction clones that were spit out of the great Hollywood copying machine during the second half of the 1990s. 

As far as the rest of the film goes, the directing by Stephen Daldry ranges from adequate to excessive (watch for "the fall" scene in the Meryl Streep episode for a good example of both).  The acting is always above average, but never exceptional.  The screenplay is nothing extraordinary, but it more than suffices.  The only thing truly memorable in The Hours, outside of the overbearing soundtrack, is the makeup effects.  Nicole Kidman has a big, wonderful fake schnozz, Ed Harris really looks like he has AIDS, and the old-age makeup used on one of the characters is believable to the point of being eerie. 

The Hours is shameless Academy-bait, unworthy of a nomination in any category outside of, "Best Makeup."  The film seems like a large lump of lost potential.  The movie isn't bad, but in its attempt to be a perfect work of art, it ends up far more flawed than it ever needed to be.  

On a scale of 1-10?

6

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Text (Copyright) 2002 Alex Sandell [All Rights Reserved].

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