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Monday, 17 February, 2003, 11:11 GMT
The Hours
Newsnight Review discussed The Hours, which was nominated for nine Oscars

(Edited highlights of the panel's review)

The Hours adapted by David Hare.

This was said to be one of these books which is unfilmable because it has this three story structure. Have they managed to film it?


They really hang together the three stories. I was in dread of it because I've a life long antipathy to Virginia Woolf. I began with prejudice. I lost it immediately.

Absolutely brilliant film. Very, very moving. The sense of anxiety, Woolf's depression. The marvellous male actors there as well. I've always had a great admiration for Leonard Woolf, he was brilliantly played. That was fascinating.

And Nicole Kidman I thought was great as Woolf. The great, great part was Meryl Streep. Volcanic and extraordinary. Changing all the time. Absolutely wonderful. I just loved her performance. I think it's a brilliant film.

Allison Pearson, it covers 77 years of female history on three different coasts.

In each story the heroine is a depressed hostess?

It is a play you would dread to take a rugby player to on a first date. It's emotionally overwhelming, if you let yourself sweep along.

We begin with an image of a river. It seems to me that is what happens. Hare has done a fantastic job of shuffling the stories.

It's not a sense of stories in parallel, but of the women's lives seeping into each other. Virginia Woolf bends to wash her face and Meryl Streep comes up with a wet face. The women have a kiss with a different woman.

They are different cases but they are the same case. It makes you feel this continuity, a river of feeling running through. It's distressing and upsetting. But it's consoling with the women's lives running into each other. Julianne Moore playing...

She was great.

..the calm suburban housewife, who hates being a wife and mother. She barely has any dialogue. It's effectively a silent movie performance.

She's nominated for an Oscar as well.

A high risk movie. Producers shouts "what is the story?". There are three stories. Do you think they have done it?

I think it is brilliant and they are telling the same story.

In a feminist context, you could say, "I want to shoot myself," because the scales of depression and the things they are depressed about remain the same across the years.

I was fascinated not only by the brilliance of the script, and the line at the beginning, when Virginia Woolf walks up the stairs and says to Leonard "I think I've got a first line". In that one sentence is encapsulated the frustrations of Leonard's love.

The metaphor of food is complex, either denying food, in the case of Woolf, or the tragic scene with Julianne Moore, who I think should scoop the Oscars, of baking the cake.

We have that scene.
We talk about the three sequences, eggs are cracked in all different time scenes. You say feminist Rosie, but it's a particular male feminism that depicts women as objects of pity, victims?

I think it does depict women as people struggling to find a role and still struggling to please men.

It is interesting how the men change as well. John C Reilly, who plays Julianne Moore 's husband, who is wonderful, and you see a tragic figure in this immaculate suburb, he has come back from the war, and because he is a hero figure, the wife is meant to do everything for him.

Then you transplant that to Streep, and you have the AIDS victim, played by Ed Harris. He has sacrificed himself to his art, and there are conversations about, would I have won a poetry prize if I did not have AIDS?

What is magical is that the more you think about the film, you more you see these echoes going through it. You said you had a good time, I did not.

I admired it.

I came out thinking about it. What I found most curious about it afterwards was that the Virginia Woolf character was the one that fell away from my thoughts more than the other two. I was more captivated by them and what they had to say, maybe partly because they felt nearer, but Woolf set the scene.

Everyone has mentioned the acting. Stephen Daldry is a director, who comes from the theatre. They seem to get a depth of performance. They rehearse more than film directors.

Yes. There is also a kind of beautiful finish. Everything is tremendously well thought through. The harder you think about it, the lest falls apart. You get the feeling of presiding intelligence over it.

I loved the blue rubber gloves Meryl Streep had, they were fantastic.

The only thing not to get an Oscar nomination, Nicole's nose? Is that a mistake?

It did not bother me. She was acting so much with her eyes, she was very inward and tortuous.

The Hours opens at cinemas today.

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