starring Meryl Streep Julianne Moore, Nicole Kidman, Eileen Atkins
screenplay by David Hare, based on the novel by Michael Cunningham
directed by Stephen Daldry
by Walter Chaw Nicole Kidman is a wonderful Virginia Woolf--a distracted mess in a film that is a literalization of that description. The only real problem with Kidman's performance is her prosthetic nose--it's a no-win situation in which The Hours finds itself: allow Kidman to look like Kidman as Woolf and there will arise such a clamour of voices; make Kidman look like Woolf and not only is it impossible to stop looking for the line at the bridge, there will still arise such a clamour of voices. The problematical manipulations and presumptions of the rest of the film are as difficult to overlook as the nose stuck on Nicole's face: The Hours is mannered to no good purpose, glowering with no good justification, and the sort of artificial construct that presents life lessons writ large by a cadre of talented performers who recognize a mainstream prestige piece when it presents itself. The only thing that separates The Hours from garbage like A Beautiful Mind (last year's odds-on favourite to disappoint people who care while pleasing people who don't really give a damn and don't remember the morning after anyway) is that its marquee disability is being a woman and, apparently, being a lesbian.