THE HOURS tells the story of three very different individuals who share the feeling that they have been living their lives for someone else. Virginia Woolf (Kidman) lives in a suburb of London in the 1920’s as she struggles to begin writing her first great novel, Mrs. Dalloway, while also attempting to overcome the mental illness that threatens to engulf her. Laura Brown (Moore), a young wife and mother in post-World War II Los Angeles, is just starting to read Mrs. Dalloway, and is so deeply affected by it that she begins to question the life she has chosen for herself. Then, in contemporary New York City, Clarissa Vaughan (Streep) is a modern-day mirror image of Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway as she plans what may be the final party for her friend and former lover, Richard (Harris), who is dying of AIDS.
Delicate and hypnotic, The Hours interweaves three stories with remarkable skill: in the 1920s Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman) grapples with her inner demons and slowly works on her novel Mrs. Dalloway; in 1949 housewife Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) feels her own destructive impulses; and in 1999 book editor Clarissa Vaughn (Meryl Streep)--much like the title character of Woolf's novel--prepares to throw a party, in honor of her dearest friend, a seriously ill poet (Ed Harris). Small details reverberate from story to story as a powerhouse cast (including Allison Janney, Toni Collette, Claire Danes, Jeff Daniels, John C. Reilly, Stephen Dillane, and Miranda Richardson) gives subtle and beautifully modulated performances. In the hands of director Stephen Daldry (Billy Elliot), The Hours is almost more a piece of music than a story, and like music, it may move you in unexpected ways. --Bret Fetzer