When I saw the poster for this movie, my first thought was, “Wait. It says Nicole Kidman is in this movie, but none of those three women are Nicole Kidman. Why isn’t she on the poster, and why doesn’t the third lady on the poster get higher billing?” So I looked it up on IMDb and realized that the makeup people did an amazing job; they managed to make Nicole Kidman look frumpy.
So what’s the story? Three different women from three different time periods have three parallel days that are all connected by parties, mental illness, and Virginia Woolf’s novel Mrs. Dalloway. I realize that doesn’t sound terribly exciting, but it’s a hard movie to sum up.
The Good: Like I said earlier, the makeup artists were amazing. They did a good job making Nicole Kidman look like Virginia Woolf, but they also did a fabulous job of aging Julianne Moore fifty years. Apparently, they weren’t eligible for an Oscar because a little bit CGI was used to make Nicole Kidman’s false nose look flawless, but still. Major kudos to them.
Major kudos also goes to the editors. The director is telling three different stories, but he jumps around from story to story often. The editing had to make that feel seamless and show the parallels in the different stories. It was very well done.
The soundtrack was beautiful, a lovely piano score. I thought it sounded very similar to the music from The Truman Show; sure enough, Philip Glass did the scores for both. But even though it wasn’t the most original, it was so lovely that it made me want to find some sheet music and learn it.
The acting was excellent. Nicole Kidman completely inhabited Virginia Woolf. Julianne Moore played a frustrated 1950s housewife, and Meryl Streep gave a moving performance as the woman of today (or 2001. But that was today when the movie was made.). John C. Reilly played Moore’s incredibly devoted husband, and Ed Harris was a poet dying of AIDS, a former lover of Meryl Streep’s character. Miranda Richardson felt completely natural as Virginia Woolf’s sister Vanessa.
The Bad: This movie is based on a book (which I haven’t read, so I can’t compare anything), and it shows. All three main character women spend a lot of time staring into space. I’m sure that in the novel, they are having deep thoughts, but those thoughts don’t always make it across on the screen. That got annoying.
I also felt like the three stories didn’t fit together as well as they should. Meryl Streep’s character had many parallels to Mrs. Dalloway, even down to the names, and her story dovetailed neatly with Julianne Moore’s, but the only connection that Julianne Moore had to Virginia Woolf was that she was reading Mrs. Dalloway, and I wanted it to be better than that.
The Ugly: Confession time: I struggle with depression. I have been suicidal in the past. I am a woman who doesn’t quite fit in her society. And even with all that, I never felt a deep connection with this movie. Maybe it was because we couldn’t get a deep look at these women’s inner thoughts, but it felt so shallow. The only woman I really felt like we got a good, sympathetic look at was Virginia Woolf; I would have happily watched an entire Virginia Woolf biopic starring Nicole Kidman and Stephen Dillane because they were the only very well-developed characters. That shouldn’t happen in a character-driven movie.
Oscars Won: Best actress in a leading role (Nicole Kidman).
Other Oscar Nominations: Best picture; best actor in a supporting role (Ed Harris); best actress in a supporting role (Julianne Moore); best director; best writing, adapted screenplay; best costume design; best film editing; best music, original score.