09 May 2006

The Hours

I suppose it's to be expected that one will not like the movie adaptation of a book that one despised. The Hours is a very pretty movie, glossy, well-acted, poignant. Yet, I found it completely uncompelling. I actually fast-forwarded through chunks of it because I couldn't stand all the long takes of the various characters staring into space to the sound of fervent piano music. Mrs. Dalloway is one of my favorite books, so I'm probably not as open to the idea of innovation in this case as I could be, but honestly, the three stories woven together never did a lot for me. I wasn't wild about it in the book, and I liked it even less in the movie, where the rapid cuts from story to story, revelling in the simulataneity of the mostly mundane events of the women's lives was rather irritating. When the whole thing escalated into a sort of collective consciousness, with everyone writing each others' neurosis, it became massively claustrophobia inducing. The accumulation of angst and misery sent my cynicism into overdrive, and rather than sympathizing with anyone, I thought to myself that movies should restrict themselves to one overwrought woman at a time. I suppose the effect should have been a sort of impressive move between general and particular, these three women in such different contexts sharing similar tragedies in unique ways, but instead, it just became a mish-mash of neurosis. Nobody in the movie was genuinely likable by the end - the poor, ineffectual supporting cast struggled to deal with the whirlwind of passive-aggressive outrage nobly, but seemed either exasperated or just broken by the process. I admit, the acting was excellent - Nicole Kidman in particular was very impressive as Virginia Woolf, and Julianne Moore and Meryl Streep were stunning as always. They were gloriously consumed in their misery, teetering at the brink of breakdown, their shining eyes giving a convincing presentation of seething misery just below the surface. The problem is, they were downtrodden all the goddamn time. I don't think any of them ever laugh, or even smile with genuine happiness - even when they're not explicitly miserable, one always has the sense that any good mood is just a front. But because they're so unhappy all the time, you never get an idea of what they'd be like if they were happy - you don't have a sense of what is lost. They seem pathetically doomed to depression, consitutionally incapable of joy. Tragic, yes, but rapidly exhausting.

No comments: