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Literature / The Hours

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Kitty: Oh. You're reading a book.
Laura Brown: Yeah.
Kitty: What's this one about?
Laura Brown: Oh, it's about this woman who's incredibly — well, she's a hostess and she's incredibly confident, and she's going to give a party. And, maybe because she's confident, everyone thinks she's fine... but she isn't.

A 1998 novel by Michael Cunningham, The Hours won the Pulitzer Prize the following year and was made into a film in 2002. The film version, directed by Stephen Daldry, starred Nicole Kidman in an Academy Award-winning role, and also featured Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore and Ed Harris in the cast.

Although they are nearly eighty years apart, three different women are connected to each other by the Virginia Woolf classic Mrs. Dalloway. In 1923, the author herself battles depression and her inner demons just as she begins to write her novel. In 1949, housewife Laura Brown finds comfort in her everyday life through the same novel. In 1999 (2001 in the film), Clarissa Vaughn embodies Mrs. Dalloway herself as she prepares a party for her friend Richard, a poet dying of AIDS.

Not to be confused with the talk show The Hour (CBC), or the BBC drama series of the same name.

A co-production of Paramount and Miramax, it is now distributed worldwide by the former after it purchased a minority stake in the latter in 2020.

This novel and film feature examples of:

  • Amicable Exes: Almost all of Clarissa's. Sally snarks that Clarissa putting her next to her exes every party she gave must be meaningful.
  • Beauty Inversion: Nicole Kidman wearing a fake nose and receding hairline as Virginia Woolf. The film was disqualified for best makeup at the Oscars because CGI was used to cover up the seam where the nose attached to Kidman's face.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead: Clarissa is blonde, Virginia's a brunette and Laura has reddish brown hair.
  • Book Ends: The story opens and closes with Virginia Woolf's suicide in 1941.
  • Butch Lesbian: Sally, who dresses and acts more masculine than her lover Clarissa.
  • Cast Full of Gay: Almost every woman in the entire film is attracted to women, and almost all of Clarissa's friends seem to be gay or bisexual.
  • Cool Aunt: Virginia to her sister's children, especially in the novel.
  • Driven to Suicide: Not just Virginia, but Ritchie as well. Laura attempts suicide, but fails.
  • Flower Motifs: Flowers show up quite a few times in each timeline, specifically yellow roses.
  • Happy Marriage Charade: Laura has a lovely husband but she only pretends to be happily married.
  • Housewife: Laura. However, she's unhappy with her life. She eventually leaves her husband and kids, moves to Canada and starts working at a library
  • Incompatible Orientation: Laura and her husband, due to her being a closeted lesbian.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Kitty envies Laura's pregnancy while she cannot have children despite it being all that she wants.
  • Lipstick Lesbian: Laura and her lover. Clarissa as well. All of them wear makeup and dress femininely.
  • Literary Allusion Title: To Mrs. Dalloway. The Hours was its original working title.
  • Love Triangle: Clarissa was in love with Richard in college (and still is to an extent). But he eventually left her for Louis Waters.
  • Match Cut: Used frequently as a transition device between the three periods of time.
  • Meaningful Echo: Virginia states the line "Mrs. Dalloway decided to buy the flowers herself". Laura reads it out loud, and Clarissa tells it to Sally in regards to getting flowers for Richard.
    • "I don't think two people could have been happier than we've been." It's the final line in Virginia's suicide note to her husband, and Richard's last words to Clarissa before jumping to his death.
  • Meaningful Name: Several of the characters (who aren't historical figures) have names relating to the novel Mrs. Dalloway. Clarissa is named after the protagonist, Richard is named after Richard Dalloway, Clarissa's partner Sally is named after Sally Seton who had a relationship with Mrs. Dalloway. Clarissa's daughter Julia is named after Julia Stephen, Virginia Woolf's mother.
  • Missing Mom: Laura for Richard and his sister.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: By the end of both the novel and the film, Laura notes that both of her children have died, and it's unclear if her daughter (killed in a car accident according to the novel) ever had children.
  • Starts with a Suicide: The story starts with Virginia's suicide.
  • Stepford Smiler: Pretty much all the three main characters and the poor Kitty as well.
  • Symbolic Serene Submersion: Virginia Woolf's death scene at the end of the film. The camera focuses on different parts of her body—the ring on her hand, her shoe slipping off—as her lifeless body is carried along with the current.
  • Title Drop: Twice. Once by Richard and at the end by Virginia Woolf.
  • Write Who You Know: In-universe, Richard based all of the characters in his novel off the people in his life.