A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie has tense and sad situations, including two suicides and one near-suicide. A character speaks of having to have a serious operation. There are sexual references and situations, including artificial insemination and same-sex kisses. Characters use strong language. Gay and bi-sexual characters are positively portrayed though sometimes anguished and isolated.
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What's the story?
In this story of three women of different eras whose lives connect and parallel each other, we see each of them struggle between despair and meaning. Author Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman) has moved to the country to cure her depression. She is looking forward to a visit from her sister (Miranda Richardson), longing to return to London, and writing a book called Mrs. Dalloway about one day in the life of a woman who is giving a party. Laura Brown (Julianne Moore) is a post-WWII suburban mother pregnant with her second child. It is her husband's birthday and she is trying to make a cake for his celebration. Clarissa Vaughn (Meryl Streep) is a present-day editor who is preparing a party for Richard (Ed Harris). He is a poet and novelist who is receiving a prestigious award. But he is very sick with AIDS and may not make it to the ceremony or the party. Richard's nickname for Clarissa is "Mrs. Dalloway" because she shares her first name with the title character. Like Mrs. Dalloway, all three women get flowers. And, like her, all three share an emotional kiss with another woman. And all three try to find something to hold on to so that they can feel that their lives are worthwhile.
Is it any good?
THE HOURS is a smart, thoughtful movie. It's beautifully directed by Steven Daldry and beautifully performed by Streep, Kidman, Moore, and supporting actors Harris, Claire Danes, and Toni Collette. Some audiences may find it pretentious, disturbing, or boring, but others will appreciate its subtlety and willingness to grapple with existential questions.
The Pulitzer-prize winning novel by Michael Cunningham is, according to the author, a tribute to Woolf's view that "there are no ordinary lives, just inadequate ways of looking at them." He says, too, that Woolf "spent her career writing the extraordinary, epic tales of people who seem to be doing nothing unusual at all. If most great writers scan the heavens like astrophysicists, Woolf looked penetratingly at the very small, like a microbiologist. Through her books, we understand that the workings of atomic particles are every bit as mysterious as the workings of galaxies - it all depends on whether you look out or look in."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what this means, and how most of us are defined and define ourselves not by huge heroic adventures but by small connections and kindnesses. What did Virginia, Laura, and Clarissa find to give value and meaning to their lives? They have people to love and people who love them - what are they missing, and why? What is the significance of those three kisses, none of which seems to give the characters the comfort and intimacy they are seeking? Why does Cunningham give us three stories touched by the fictional character created by Woolf? Does he think that any of his characters are successful? How can you tell? What book could inspire you as Cunningham was inspired by Woolf?
- In theaters: January 10, 2003
- On DVD or streaming: June 24, 2003
- Cast: Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman
- Director: Stephen Daldry
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 111 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: mature thematic elements, some disturbing images, and brief language
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