I read The Hours by Michael Cunningham this summer, and found it was quite a good book. One of my friends is obsessed with it, and he lent me the movie, which I saw recently (like, a few weeks ago…) so I decided to do a little comparison of them both.
If you’re not familiar with the story, The Hours retraces one day in the life of three women at three different periods of time. The first woman is Virginia Woolf herself (played by Nicole Kidman), as she writes Mrs. Dalloway in the 1920s. The second woman, Laura Brown (played by Juliane Moore), lives in America the 1960s. She is a unhappy mother, and as she prepares the birthday of her husband, all she wants to do is escape reality and read Mrs Dalloway. The last woman, Clarissa Vaughan (played by Meryl Streep), is setting up a party for her friend Richard, who has nicknamed her Mrs Dalloway, and is a great poet who also happens to be dying because he has AIDS.
Through the book, we can see how the lives of the three women are intertwined. At first I was a little bit sceptic, but the story is very well and cleverly written, and in the end, I really enjoyed the book. I also talked about it here, by the way.
But I can hear you wonder: what about the movie?
My first impression: it is very beautiful esthaetically. It also stays true to the book, which is an extremely good point.
Book Virginia vs. Movie Virginia
I know Virginia Woolf had menal illness, so I think she was rather well depicted in the book. But her movie character had something more. I don’t know if it’s the visual, or Nicole Kidman’s acting. But she felt so real and somehow helpless… I’ll go for the movie character
Book Laura vs. Movie Laura
I thought her book character was really interesting, and though she is obviously messed up, I could somehow – to some extent – relate to her. At least I could understand in a way. In the movie, she was messed up for sure, but there was something unsure, something missing. Juliane Moore was really good at it, but in my opinion, the book character had something that didn’t reach the screen, so this time I’ll go for the book.
Book Clarissa vs. Movie Clarissa
I have to say I had a pretty clear image of Clarissa when I read the book, and Meryl Streep didn’t quite correspond it. I really like her as an actress though, but it seemed to me they were two very different characters in a way. I’ll go for the book character this time as well, because I remember really liking it in the book, while in the movie she made me feel a bit uneasy sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, she was amazing, but I think a little something was missing here as well. So once again, point goes to the book.
Book ending vs. Movie ending
Once again, the movie is extremely faithful to the book – in a good way of course – and the ending was no exception. When I read the book, I was a bit shocked and surprised by the ending, and it also left me that special feeling of “oh my god I didn’t see that coming, but it was so obvious how could I miss it” which was especially satisfying and even made me want to re read the entire book to point out the clues (which I didn’t do because I’m lazy, and I struggled a lot with the beginning. But maybe I’ll re read it some day for the sake of it.) So of course, I knew how it would end in the movie, but it was really well made. I could see the hints, but some things stil got me by surprise, so I have to to admit it was extemely well done. No winner this time!
As I said, I think the movie was excellent esthaetically. The side characters are really good too, especially Richard. He is such an interesting and moving character (he made me scream and cry…) The book was well-written, and the movie was beautiful. If you haven’t read the book nor watched the movie, I advise you to read the book first, it will help understand the movie better! The ending is rather unexpected, and it’s so well done in the book it would be a pity to spoil it. I think they both complete each other in a way. The movie is a great illustration of the book, and meanwhile the book helps understand the movie better.
Have you read the book? Have you seen the movie? I would love to see your opinion!