merylfest: THE HOURS (2002)
I’ve been quite remiss of late in keeping up with my project started way back when of viewing every movie in the astounding filmography of Meryl Streep (that last post was on Doubt – that so long ago, does anyone even remember?). And after hitting up most of the major ones (see Sophie’s Choice and Devil Wears Prada) and dabbling in one surprising spam-comment-magnet (what do male enhancement products really have to with Mamma Mia!, hm?), we’re delving into some less-honored territory with The Hours. And to be frank, I’ve never understood the lack of love for Clarissa Vaughan, the stand-out in the twisty-turny history-bending ensemble piece. The Oscars opted for Nicole Kidman‘s Virginia Woolf (an admirable choice, to be sure) and virtually ignored Streep’s work perhaps out of sheer modernity. But Vaughan is hardly the most modern of lead female roles; she is, in fact, based on Woolf’s 1925 character Mrs. Dalloway.
From the first moments of editing genius in which Vaughan declares she will “by the flowers herself,” we’re hooked on her life’s hidden troubles (much like her version of Susan Orlean in Adaptation). We’re led to believe there is trouble on the home front as Vaughan’s lover Sally (played brilliantly and with surprising care by Allison Janney) returns home in the early morning. In fact, most of Vaughan’s well-being and self-image depends on her ability to throw a decent party, particularly the one for her friend, the suicidal AID-stricken poet (played with eerie calm by Ed Harris). At some point Clarissa has lost most of herself in favor of the easier route – that is, she’s reflected herself elsewhere – her daughter (played by Claire Danes), Sally, and her poet friend – as a means to avoid the truth that she’s unhappy.
Now, The Hours is the type of film that is easy to discuss at length, and it feels as though I’ve mentioned it several times in posts past. It’s easy to say it’s one of the most actorly of film showcases of the last 20 years. It’s no surprise, since the film was left in such able hands, as evident in the poster to the left. Though I would have to say the stand-out in the movie is Streep (this performance placed my top 50 of the decade if you may recall), Moore and Kidman are both brilliant in some of their, if not their absolute, best work. The movie is a downer, to be sure, but it’s a beautiful downer. There’s so much fine editing, costuming, and screenwriting at work here, it’s hard to be too depressed by the melancholy of it all.
Meryl’s Performance: A-
The Film: A-