“The Hours” is a story told throughout multiple generations, detailing how one act of discovery can affect many lives, even ones you’ll never meet. It takes place during three different time periods – one in 1923 England while Virginia Woolfe (Nicole Kidman) struggles with depression and bipolar disorder while writing her novel “Mrs. Dalloway,” another in 1951 Los Angeles where pregnant Laura (Julianne Moore) is reading that novel while trying to figure out what she really wants out of life, and finally in 2001 New York with Clarissa Vaughan (Meryl Streep) who has built her life around being like Mrs. Dalloway as she tries to put together a party for her friend (Ed Harris) before he dies of AIDS. All three women desperately try to find meaning in their own lives through this book, regardless of the struggles they all face and the temptation they all feel of taking the easy way out.
And boy is it overly and rather unnecessarily melodramatic.
I admire a network narrative told through three different time periods, something I can only recall being done in 1916’s “Intolerance,” but the whole thing does feel forced and exaggerated. The 2001 timeline is especially egregious of this, with Streep’s character basing her entire life on a fictional character and a party. Regardless of what that party means to her or Ed Harris’ character, the whole thing is played out like a life-or-death ordeal with many moments of reflection and regret. All that’s missing is a musical number and every cliche would fall into place. While the acting is wonderful from all three leads, especially Nicole Kidman who really sells just how disturbed she is, the film goes so big on every little moment and treats everything like the end of the world. It really is too much at times, never giving the audience a chance to breathe.
Final Grade: C