DOASKDOTELL MOVIE REVIEWs of The Hours, Personal Velocity, Evening

 

Title:  The Hours

Release Date:  2002

Nationality and Language: USA/UK/Canada; English

Running time: 110 min

MPAA Rating:PG-13

Distributor and Production Company:  Paramount/Miramax

Director; Writer: Stephen Daldry; based on the novel (1998) The Hours by Paul Cunnimgham, which is in turn inspired by Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs. Dalloway. Paul Cunningham won the Human Rights Campaign’s National Equality Award in 1998 for this novel.

Producer:

Cast:   Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep, Ed Harris, Allison Janney

Technical:

Relevance to doaskdotell site:

Review:

 

This film was interesting to me in the technical way it handles telling three interconnected stories in parallel, separated in time by decades.  Rather than bargain on a conventional rooting interest in one character, the movie takes the form of a kind of rondo with variations.

 

The anchor (and most convincing) third of this Cantor set is the original story in 1921 (Britain) of Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman), writing her novel Mrs. Dalloway about a woman giving a party. Her family tells her, “You have two lives, the life you live and the life you write.” She has hired a typesetter for publishing, and the typesetter threatens to quit over her typos. The scenes of the old-fashioned typesetting equipment are quite striking for modern connoisseurs of desktop and on-demand publishing.

 

The second story concerns a 50s southern California housewife Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) who will use the novel to deal with her own medical and suicidal issues, but live through them. The third story concerns her little boy who grows up to be a gay man (played by Ed Harris) and writer who will die in 2001 of AIDS. The depiction of him as a Person with AIDS is quite graphic: emaciated, mangy chest hair turned gray, face and body covered with apthous sores and balding legs invaded by Kaposi’s Sarcoma.  Book editor Clarissa Vaughan (Meryl Streep) wants to give him a party, but the suicide issue will come first. The scene takes place in the East Village the winter before 9-11. 

 

The screenplay technical transitions and dissolves from one time period to another are rather simple and direct, without any need to funnel everything through some kind of omniscient observer.

 

Another, smaller, trifurcated film with feminist viewpoint is Personal Velocity, from United Artists and written and directed by Rebecca Miller. The film appeared to be shot on DV. Here there is a narrator (John Ventimiglia) who tells the connected stories of three women sequentially. There is Delia (Kyra Sedgwick) who has left her husband for a shelter and then working-class life as a single parent. Then Greta (Parker Posey) is a New York publishing house editor who deals with issues of fidelity and sexual attraction. Finally Paula (Fairuza Balk) goes on a journey in the Catskills with a young hitchhiker. The short stories are miniatures and episodes that do not come close to answering the questions that they pose. Remember how we studied short stories in high school English class? We had to know them in detail for tests.  It’s grammar and literature. 

Evening (2007, Focus / Hart-Sharp / Bavaria, dir. Lajos Koltai, novel by Susan Minot, 110 min, PG-13, USA/Germany). In Newport, RI, Ann Grant Lord is dying, with the aid of an evening nurse (Eileen Atkins) and daughters. She recalls a complicated love affair a half-century before, when she was maid of honor to a wedding of Lila (now Meryl Streep, who also comes to the house), and had to deal with the wild likeable but alchohol-prone brother (Hugh Dancy) who pulls a stunt (jumping off a cliff) only to be struck by a car. During the incident Ann fell in love with a young doctor (Patrick Wilson). The complexities of the story get chopped up in the flashbacks, and the flow is not as clear as in other movies of this type. At one point, The Great Gatsby is mentioned, but this retrospective film seems less effective than the more straightforward classic.

 

 

 

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