After months of early rave reviews and hype over Nicole Kidman's chameleonic performance as Virginia Woolf, The Hours finally begins its wide release this week. Director Steven Daldry (Billy Elliott) is already earning nominations and awards from various film organizations for his adaptation of Michael Cunningham's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, which weaves the lives of three women together into a story about melancholy, despair, insanity, suicide, and the meaning of life.

Virginia Woolf's depression and disillusionment influenced the tone of her novel Mrs. Dalloway, published in the 1920s. The Hours follows the stories of two other women who relate powerfully to Mrs. Dalloway's angst and loneliness. One is a troubled housewife (Julianne Moore) in 1949. In a present-day plot, the other (Meryl Streep) cares for her friend, a famous author (Ed Harris) dying of AIDS.

J. Robert Parks (Phantom Tollbooth) says, "One of the things I like most about The Hours (and there is much to admire) is how it deals with the issue of mental illness. So many films take the side of the person suffering or the side of family and friends who have to deal with the sufferer. The Hours portrays both. We see the agony of a person who can't seem to find the will to live, but we also see what that does to friends, spouses, and children. … There is a compelling plot, beautiful imagery, and some of the best acting you'll see all year."

Holly McClure (Crosswalk) says, "Although I was intrigued by several of the thought-provoking issues raised in this movie—and there's no question that it was beautifully done—I was disappointed that it was so sad, depressing, and disturbing." She describes the film as deliberately deceitful, "luring" audiences with big name ...

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