Friday, November 28, 2003

An Oueuf Is An Oueuf

Stephen Daldry's movie of Michael Cunningham's book The Hours is the Academy Award-nominated arthouse film of choice for wannabe lesbians everywhere, so I thought, hey! count me in, and summarily rented the DVD. But with its complex, character-based cross-plotting I was a little worried that The Hours might feel like The Months and add to that the fact that every time I see Meryl Streep on screen I want to slap her face and tell her to get over herself and her GREAT BIG TALENT, and you can see I had mixed emotions on watching this piece.

However, the film begins strongly and is pretty engrossing, and the way the characters' lives are juxtaposed is impressively edited if you've never before seen a Nic Roeg movie (or for that matter, screenwriter David Hare's own Wetherby). In effect, the film features the lives of three women affected by the novel Mrs Dalloway - the author herself (Virginia Woolf, played by Nicole Kidman), fighting demons of depression while conceiving the book; a 50s housewife (Julianne Moore) trapped in a loveless marriage to John C Reilly and struggling to suppress the hots for neighbour Toni Collette, and a modern-day lesbian (Meryl Streep) who is trying to host a party for an AIDS-stricken author (Ed Harris, 53 today - happy birthday, Ed!) with whom she shared a brief tryst many years before.

Although the film is solidly made and well acted (including attention-grabbing cameos from Jeff Daniels as Harris' ex-lover and Claire Danes as Streep's daughter) the second half of the film never quite lives up to the promise of the first hour. Considering the film is a character study, only Streep's part could be classed as fully three-dimensional: Kidman immerses herself in the role of Woolf but the character is unsympathetic and underwritten, and similarly Moore is luminous as the 50s housewife but this 'middle sequence' feels more like a sketch than a fully realised plot. Maybe the screenplay was the victim of the need to keep the film's running length to a multiplex-friendly timespan (clocking in at just under 2 hours) but no project based around such a dense novel as 'Mrs Dalloway' should ever have been allowed to have such a superficial grasp of its own characters.

Also, within the context of the great struggles in the earth's history, I found it difficult to feel too much sympathy for the plight of upper-middle-class society hostesses fighting for the right to eat pussy. The film's ultimate message seems to be that the modern-day heroine played by Streep gets to sleep with (the surprisingly foxy) Alison Janney but pays for this privelige by having to break her own eggs. But we never do get to find out how many lesbians does it to take to make an omelette, which is a missed opportunity in my Parallax View.


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