The Hours
***.7 GM
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep, Ed Harris, Jeff Daniels, Claire Danes, Allison Janney, John C. Reilly, Stephen Dillane

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Julianne Moore is really fucking good.

I used to have this namelessly negative reaction to her for no good reason, and thus I would avoid her if I could help it. Hannibal didn't help things. But after Far From Heaven and this film, she's become a must-see.

This film rides the pretention line pretty closely, as anything involving authors tends to for some reason (except maybe "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas"). Virginia Woolf (Kidman) is a suicidal writer trapped in the countryside for her "health," writing a book called "Mrs. Dalloway" that profoundly affects Laura Brown (Moore), an unhappy wife and mother who reads it decades after it's written, and the work is still relevant because it parallels the modern life of Clarissa (Streep), a woman struggling to hold onto her desire for life while dealing with a close friend dying of AIDS (Harris). Three timelines, three stories intertwining and keeping things chugging along, preventing it from becoming too melodramatic.

It didn't grab me right away. It had me (okay, interesting concept), lost me (I smell pretense!), had me (man, everybody in this movie is good), lost me again (this is SO Oscar-calibrated), but by the time the finale rolled around, I was pretty well sucked into it and getting all inspired and shit with the "Always to look life in the face" mantra. Huzzah! Inspiration!

Nicole Kidman will be the most talked about since her rather obvious prosthetic nose was A) apparently enough to fool some test audiences into thinking she wasn't even in the film and B) oh, my, how daring and bold of her to risk not being her effervescently charming and breathtakingly beautiful self in a film like this - what a brave, brave performance! She was actually pretty good as the depressive, unpredictable and self-possessed Woolf. Streep is Streep - good 'n' angsty, able to make good with the tears. I also really liked Ed Harris as the frustrated dying author believing he's failed at life.

Julianne Moore's Laura Brown, though, resonated with me the most. As she proved in "Far From Heaven," she's more than adept at showing drastic heartache and spreading it to an audience. Her paralyzing depression about how her unwanted family life, her feeling of debt to her unwanted husband and how she must keep her real desires to herself is the strongest part of the film. The deal she strikes with herself to avoid death makes a horrible sort of sense, and the fact that she knows she SHOULD feel regret but doesn't is quite the knife-twist.

Moore is nominated for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress... and I'm kinda rooting for her to win both.

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