Women Make Movies

Cinematic answer to Pulitzer prize-winning novel

BY AARON KRACH | CLARRISSA Meryl Streep is a modern Mrs. Dalloway in The Hours. Try, if you can, to forget all that’s been said about The Hours. Let the accolades for Meryl and Julianne, Nicole, Miranda, and Ed roll away. Block out the buzz about Golden Globe nominations, Kidman’s prosthetic nose… Forget about it, if you can, and walk into the theater with an open mind. The Hours is a film that unravels its secrets slowly, rewards it’s viewers with subtlety. The film is much more than you’ve heard, because it is so much less. It is quiet, still, and ennobling. The Hours is also sweet, very sad, and surprisingly complicated. The Hours is also refreshingly contemporary and queer, quite frankly. I’m not sure how it’s going to play in Peoria, all of which are good things. Sweet yet sad films are one thing, truly melancholy movies that leave you feeling extended, stretched, and emotionally spent are rare. Simply put, The Hours is about three women at various stages of the 20th Century, in various stages of their very unique, imperfect existences. The women are all creative, have desires, want a life that is better, more rewarding than the one they currently have. It is this contrast between desire and despair that is recognizable and authentic. How a movie about Virginia Woolf, a great writer from the first half of the 20th Century, can feel so contemporary is mysterious. The best explanation is because Woolf is used as the catalyst for the two other women’s stories. Woolf is the center of her own creative drama, but she is a fork in the road for Julianne Moore’s character, a 1950s housewife, and Meryl Streep, a modern Mrs. Dalloway, a book editor whose favorite client is also her bisexual ex-lover (Ed Harris). Streep’s Mrs. Dalloway anchors the movie in the present. She and her lover (Allison Janney) and daughter (Claire Danes) are a unit the world seems to be rotating around. Their unhappy household is painfully, unglamorously familiar. In contrast, Kidman’s Woolf and Moore’s housewife feel dated, a little like the artifacts from a different time. Yet everyone is linked to each other in more ways than even they realize. No film in recent memory has as much queer talent on screen and off. Beginning at the beginning, The Hours author, Michael Cunningham, is gay. His story returns again and again to the relationship between young boys and their mothers that so many gay men will identify with. Director Stephen Daldry used to be gay, back when he made the very gay Billy Elliot. (Coincidentally another gay director, Pedro Almodovar, has been open about how badly he wanted to direct a film version of The Hours; and a copy of the book makes a cameo appearance in Almodovar’s current film, Talk To Her.) Then there is all the same-sex love in the film. Ed Harris is a gay poet. His ex boyfriend is Jeff Daniels. Julianne Moore makes out with Toni Collette; Nicole Kidman kisses Miranda Richardson; Meryl Streep kisses Alison Janney. Some are lesbian kisses, one is incestuous, all are genuinely erotic and backed by intense feelings.