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"The Hours"

Directed by Stephen Daldry ("Billy Elliot").
Written by David Hare.  Based on the book by Michael Cunningham. 
Starring Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman.
Release Year:  2002 
Review Date:  1/9/03 


It’s been getting killer reviews and great buzz, so I just had to check out the new drama “The Hours.”  Damn near the whole universe is in the film—besides leads Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore and Nicole Kidman, we’ve got a little Ed Harris, a taste of Claire Danes, “No, I’m Not Dead” Jeff Daniels and even “The West Wing” star Allison Janney!  So, after walking out of the theater, I kept asking myself—

What’s all the fuss about?

Don’t get me wrong, “The Hours” is a solid drama.  The very broad overview is that “The Hours” is a three-pronged story based around the Virginia Woolf novel “Mrs. Dalloway”, and we follow three women—Woolf (Kidman) herself, in 1923 Richmond, England; Clarissa (Streep) in 2001 New York City; and, Laura (Moore) in 1951 Los Angeles—as they relay parts of the book story to us in the audience.  I’m only giving you the broad overview because telling you more will give away parts of the book, but the script requires your focus for the full running time and even going off to the bathroom during this movie will cost you dearly.  Based on a book by Michael Cunningham, the plotlines for this film are pretty complex, in terms of how each scene is laid out to the emotions that run higher and harder as each scene goes on.

The performances by everyone in “The Hours” are solid; Moore’s felt a little familiar, only because her character in “Far From Heaven” was also bound in the 50s of America and she had some major emotional problems later in that film.  The best performance here comes from director Stephen Daldry (“Billy Elliot”), who somehow manages to keep all of this together; in the hands of lesser directors, this would have been a total mess.  It’s still hard to keep up with this but Daldry’s direction has everything running very smoothly and gives us very assured performances from Harris, Streep and Miranda Richardson in particular.  Beautifully shot, the visuals in “The Hours” are very good and make the most out of the limited settings due to the time constraints of each scene’s timing (the movie basically takes place over the course of one day).

If only I had taken a nap beforehand!  “The Hours” runs s l o w at times, and that almost totally knocked me out of the running.  The slow spots happen periodically, whether it is Daldry’s tendency to stay on the faces of his three leads for too long, or his reliance on a familiar-sounding musical score, or whenever someone starts to cry, which is a lot here.  For whatever reason, “The Hours” feels long, even if it is a full 70 minutes shorter than “The Two Towers.”  But, I must have checked my watch three times and I was relieved when things finally ended.

Speaking of which, the ending for “The Hours” is good and tasty; one of the better endings of the year.  Too bad it didn’t come a little faster...

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09