Monday, May 19, 2008

Movie Review: The Hours

Brandon and I watched The Hours last month. He liked it better, and I liked it a little less than the first time he and I watched it (which was before we met each other).

The film is still, of course, a visual and musical delight. The soundtrack, scene-work, make-up, costumes and cinematography come together beautifully, and to powerful effect. The performances are still convincing and sympathetic. I still cried when the boy was in the street yelling desperately for his mother to come back. The well-scripted dialogue contributes nicely to characterization--particularly those lines which say more than the character speaking them intends.

But there are a couple things I found dissatisfying. Of the three leads, "Mrs. Dalloway" is the most sane and emotionally healthy--but she is still depressed and frustrated, living in the past, leeching her life's meaning off a dying man, and neglecting her lover. It is unrealistic that she would have a happy, carefree teenage daughter. Generally speaking, unhappy parents have unhappy children, and typically, relations between unhappy parents and their adolescent children are strained.

Also, some of the film's tension stems from miscommunication, or complete lack of communication--as when "Mrs. Dalloway" refuses to open up to her lover about her clearly overwhelming emotions, or when the housewife sits, weeping in the bathroom, straining to carry on a normal conversation with her husband, in the other room. "Mrs. Dalloway" opens up to her daughter and a friend, but the conversations are not transformative, leaving the issues at stake unresolved.

Resolution comes to Woolf through the decision to move back to London (which eventually leads to her suicide), to the housewife in running away, and to "Mrs. Dalloway" in the death of "the poet." In each case, a change in external life-situation brings resolution. I am philosophically biased toward movies which represent inner and inter-personal transformation as the mode of deliverance. I am highly skeptical of the idea that someone who is miserable (for reasons other than not having their basic physical needs met) can find lasting peace solely by means of a change in outward circumstances.

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