Three ticked-off women wallow in Stephen Daldry and David Hare’s The Hours, something of a misnomer since it clocks in at one hour 50.
The stories of Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman sporting a prosthetic nose), a 1950s housewife (Julianne Moore) and a present-day New Yorker (Meryl Streep) are tied together by a Philip Glass score and some particularly on-the-nose editing. Recurring motifs of cracking eggs and discarded food suggest a century of domestic misery, more The Dours than The Hours.
Opening with Woolf’s suicide by drowning, the film feels weighed down as if by stones. The interweaving narrative may have been clever in Michael Cunningham’s novel but appears clunky on screen, where the three women seem more like pieces in a literary game of 3D chess than 3D characters. Streep’s theatrical performance also sticks out more than Kidman’s prosthetics.
The rest of the cast are engaging (including Allison Janney, Ed Harris and John C. Reilly in his second “oblivious husband” role of 2002) and the movie may be the most stressful Christmas Day release of all time, but there’s probably more here for book groups than drama nuts. And for those with a nose for the more avant-garde, Robert Altman’s 3 Women would be our after-Hours pick.