Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Hours (2002)

The Hours is one of those movies which everyone tells you is good. They know this because:
1) It’s based on a book
2) Meryl Streep’s in it, with some other people
3) Everyone else says so

Now I’m not intending to trash “The Hours”. It’s a fine piece of work, but the above-mentioned reasons made me reluctant to see it, which is why I only got around to it last night. Having now seen it, I can’t muster up any regret that it took me so long; just a neutral sort of “Hmm. I’m glad I saw that.” What’s odd about this lukewarm response is that the movie itself deals with the overwrought emotions of three different women who are all, to some degree, mentally unstable. There is a current of woe running so strong through this movie that I never felt as if I really knew any of the characters; just the low points of their lives. This is exhausting to watch, and furthermore the mannered, oh-so-pertinent ramblings of depressed people is a bit too much like what I’ve got at home. But when it’s going on around you, at least you have the memory, the knowledge, of the person’s real character. Giving screen time to three connected but separate stories is necessarily going to limit your experience of each to the pinnacle of their emotion, and for me, that lessened my identification with them. When everything everyone says is Significant, it’s hard to feel in the moment rather than in a series of Moments that have been deliberately, and a bit obviously, picked out for you.

That said, I did like the structure of the film. The concept of it, anyway. As I understand it, this is due to the structure of the book, but the filmmakers did achieve a different “look” and color palette for each segment. The performances were fine, but the high key emotion is difficult to buy when it’s in constant supply. With three famous actresses in the lead roles, my cynical movie-person says that it’s mostly a showpiece for their emotive talents. That isn’t to say it’s not worth it; just that it’s a movie which seems to be aching for depth with the broadest possible scope.

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