If one more critic says something about Nicole Kidman’s altered nose when talking about The Hours, I’ll bloody theirs.
Hollywood gobbledygook and shiny gold statue aside, The Hours is based on the Pulizter Prize-winning novel by Michael Cunningham.
People seem to forget about this in lieu of prosthetics. Or they’re just afraid to touch the content.
Cunningham uses almost hesitant prose (hesitant in that each word seems perfectly planned and placed) to paint a day in the life of three women: feminist author Virginia Woolf, who suffers from bouts of madness; Laura Brown, who feels deprived of her own life in her 1950s home; and Clarissa Vaughn, who suffers an emotional crisis when she realizes she’s been living her life for someone else.
Their lives are woven together in plot and in theme.
The novel reworks Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway (The Hours was the working title for Woolf’s book), so much of the “action” takes place inside the characters heads in “stream of consciousness” fashion.
It reads like putting someone’s head under a microscope and magnifying her purpose for being.
This is the single biggest difference between the film and the book. David Hare’s brilliant screenplay takes these thoughts and turns them into poignant dialogue.
In some cases, this seems more effective.
For instance, when Laura makes a cake for her husband’s birthday, she tells her son, Richie, that they’re baking a cake for daddy to show him that they love him.
He asks her, “If we don’t bake a cake, he won’t know we love him?” She answers, “That’s right.”
In the book, these words remain unsaid, and the scene focuses on Laura’s feelings about her son. A line from that scene reads, “She is full of a love so strong, so unambiguous, it resembles appetite.”
The rapid thinking of the characters and the fact that it’s in present tense give the book a certain urgency, making The Hours a quick read.
And why Virginia Woolf? The author has said the following:
“Because she was a genius and a visionary, because she was a rock star, because she was the first writer to split the atom, because I’m in love with her, because she knew that everyone, every single person, is the hero at his or her own epic story.”
For this reason, Cunningham takes a single ordinary day for each of these women and turns it into something epic, something tragic, something life altering.
It shows how only a few hours can make all the difference in the world — or none at all.
The Hours depicts what’s amazing, what’s most upsetting and what’s most unfathomable of this thing we call humanity.
Cunningham has magnified and glorified all the faults and longings that make us human.
Contact Kristan Bright at firstname.lastname@example.org