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DVD REVIEW

Hours, The  (2002)

 

Starring: Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman

Director: Stephen Daldry

Rating: R

Studio: Paramount

Release Date: 6.24.03

Review Posted: 7.08.03

Spoilers: None

 

Reviewed by Dennis Landmann

 

"Leonard, you cannot find peace by avoiding life." - Virginia Woolf

 

Synopsis

 

In 1929, Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman) is starting to write her novel, 'Mrs. Dalloway,' under the care of doctors and family. In 1951, Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) is planning for her husband's birthday, but is preoccupied with reading Woolf's novel. In 2001, Clarrisa Vaughn (Meryl Streep) is planning an award party for her friend, an author dying of AIDS. Taking place over one day, all three stories are interconnected with the novel mentioned before, as one is writing it, one is reading it, and one is living it.

 

Critique

 

The Hours is kind of a tricky film. Going back and forth between the three storylines and eras is at first difficult to digest, but as director Stephen Daldry introduces each new scene carefully and slowly, the three-story structure ends up working rather well. David Hare adapts Michael Cunningham’s novel of the same name and creates an emotionally captivating piece of drama, but only with the help of Stephen Daldry does this film rise above the usual dramas.

 

The film does just that because of several important and rewarding factors. Number one, such talented actresses as Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, and Nicole Kidman (who ultimately picked up the Oscar statue for her performance) ultimately capture the essence of their respective characters in commanding and reflective ways. But raising the bar of talent are additional cast members like Stephen Dillane, Ed Harris, who only shows up a few times, John C. Reilly, Toni Collette, Jeff Daniels, Allison Janney, Claire Danes, and Miranda Richardson. If these folks don’t get your hopes up, no one else will. All of them turn in commendable performances, even if their talents show up in only supporting roles. Secondly, the story aides in evoking the right kind of emotions as it is a tale that begins in despair, but ends in hope and possibly even redemption for some. And third, the combination of the writing and the intelligent direction make The Hours a vivid and surprising drama.

 

Adding to the emotion the film leaves you with, aside from the aforementioned factors, is related to the beautiful score by Philip Glass (most prominent in Powaqqatsi, and others). While it plays quite often, it comes at the exact moments when something important happens on the screen. However, even with all of the things in favor of the film, the pace is somewhat of an issue—it moves at too slow a pace, although the film runs a good length at 114 minutes.

 

The Hours is an emotionally satisfying drama featuring top-notch performances from the entire cast, but standing out among them are obviously Streep, Moore, and Kidman. Stephen Daldry and David Hare prove that even an unconventional novel can make a good film. Thus, The Hours is very much recommended.

 

8 out of 10

 

The Video

 

Paramount presents The Hours in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. This transfer is pretty nice. I noticed grain and dirt in some of the low-light scenes and in a few other instances, although compression artifacts did not appear. Some light edge enhancement is apparent, but nothing serious at all. The color palette is very nice as colors and hues are spread out accordingly. Color detail is mostly consistent. Dark tones and black levels are pretty decent. The overall presentation is pretty good and makes Seamus McGarvey’s cinematography look all the better (even if it looks great already).

 

8 out of 10

 

The Audio

 

Paramount presents The Hours in English 5.0 Surround Sound. This is somewhat of a surprising presentation, because it’s not the best source available. Aside from that, the presentation is fairly, above decent. Dialog scenes are clear and easy to understand. Sound effects also work out pleasingly. Philip Glass’ score is beautiful, emotional and memorable (it’s not exceptional, however, as he’s produced better scores in better films, but that’s obviously beside the point). Rear speakers remain inactive while the front speakers carry all the noise and so forth. Therefore, surround usage is not too apparent, which leaves something to be desired. But it is what it is, a pretty decent presentation that does not affect the experience of watching the film.

 

The Hours is also available in English Dolby Surround and a French Language track.

 

7 out of 10

 

The Extras

 

Commentary by Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore and Nicole Kidman – Comments from all three are spliced together for this commentary track, producing obvious gaps and moments of dull silence. Kidman is more in focus with her task of working out the role and her performance, while Streep and Moore are more congratulatory, although they provide enough interesting comments, too.

 

Commentary by Stephen Daldry and Michael Cunningham – This a scene-specific commentary that Daldry and Cunningham recorded together. They discuss more specific details about the production, especially reflecting on the task of turning Cunningham’s novel into a workable screenplay and subsequent film. Both of these guys engage in an interested, engaging chat about The Hours.

 

Filmmakers Introduction – Well, this is not really an extra per se, since it is merely a brief 2-minute introduction by Stephen Daldry, most likely excerpted from an EPK session. After this one, however, you can choose to watch four featurettes that are listed below.

 

4 Featurettes – First up is "Three Women" (~15:00), a segment with interviews with Daldry, Cunningham, screenwriter David Hare and a group interview with Kidman, Moore and Streep. The rewarding thing about this featurette, however, is the extensive behind-the-scenes footage transposed over the interviews. "The Mind and Times of Virginia Woolf" (~26:00) is a segment on Mrs. Woof. This featurette runs longer than the other three and is therefore more comprehensive, but overly more reflective of the film’s subject. Included are interviews with Woolf scholars and others, giving off some valid and constructive information. "The Music of The Hours" (~7:00) is a segment on the film’s music with more interview snippets. The music is fantastic and this behind-the-scenes arrangement is fun to watch. Lastly, "The Lives of Mrs. Dalloway" (~9:00) is a segment on Woolf’s influence on the life and career exhibited by Daldry, Cunningham and Hare.

 

The film’s Theatrical Trailer is also available. You can select to view the film with optional English subtitles. The DVD’s menus are not animated. The 114-minute feature is organized into seventeen chapters.

 

8 out of 10

 

Overall

 

The Hours deserves its best picture nomination at the 2002 Academy Awards as it is a fine drama. Paramount gives this DVD a very nice video presentation and a decent audio transfer. The special collector’s edition label is true to its meaning as the features included on this disc are worth more than one might think. Therefore, The Hours comes very much recommended.

 

RATINGS SUMMARY

 

THE MOVIE 8
THE VIDEO 8

THE AUDIO

7

THE EXTRAS

8

OVERALL (not an average)

8

 


 

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