Dreary and annoying Oscar bait that examines the parallels between three troubled women: English novelist Virginia Woolf (Nicole Kidman), as she writes her masterpiece Mrs. Dalloway in 1923; a Los Angeles housewife (Julianne Moore) reading the novel in 1951; and a Manhattan literati (Meryl Streep) living the life of Woolf's title character in 2001.
It's a neat concept, courtesy of egghead author Michael Cunningham – the story traces the day's events of the women as each prepares for a party, a structure identical to that of Mrs. Dalloway. But the novelty dissipates quickly as the maudlin tone sets in. All the women are depressed, they are all suicidal, maybe they're all lesbians, who cares? There's not a sympathetic character in the whole film, save for Woolf's long-suffering husband Leonard (Stephen Dillane). Woolf herself, one of the greatest figures in modern literature, comes across here as just an unhappy shut-in with a nervous tic.
Celebrated hack Stephen Daldry, who also helmed Billy Elliot, overdirects as usual: when one character commits suicide by jumping out a window, there are no less than three shots of the body dramatically falling, finally landing – splat! – right on the camera lens. Tacky. This sort of ham-handedness trashes what should have been a delicate story.
There's not a lick of joy, insight, or genuine feeling in The Hours. It's a big-budget Lifetime TV Movie, so caught up in its own seriousness that it forgets to be about anything. Philip Glass's typical deedly-deedly score only adds to the tedium.