I saw the movie awhile back so the story should be read with fresh eyes. I’ll be curious to see if, as the story goes, I’ll recognize any moments. We begin with a woman walking off to a river, loading herself down with stones, a fisherman within visual distance, but not being noticed as she walks into the water, stumbling and being dragged the rest of the way in, she having terrible migraines and voices only distantly within her hearing. We jump to her husband’s perspective, getting news from the maid being of which his wife having gone out for a walk and would return shortly, he then going upstairs to watch the news and locating a letter addressed to him, his wife remarking of her soon-to-be bad times again and not wanting to put him through the trouble. He rushes back downstairs to ask the maid which way she’d gone, heading in the right direction but seeing no one but a fisherman. We then go back to Virginia’s perspective, she floating along briskly, but not far, getting stuck near a bridge, still underwater but feeling the resonance of a little boy and his mother, he throwing down a stick into the water and soldiers waving to him as they pass on a truck.
We’re then introduced to Clarissa who needs to pick up flowers, leaving to return hopefully within a half hour. She’s in New York and content with her errand for a party she will be throwing. We then learn Clarissa is in her early fifties and feeling as young as her eighteen-year-old self. As she’s walking down the street, Richard comes up to her and calls hello to her, referring to her as Mrs. Dalloway for their similarities in fate, apparently (and current tasks). Richard (who shares a name with the Clarissa of Mrs. Dalloways’ husband) is dealing with AIDS and speaking his mind of what he thought of the day in opposition of Clarissa’s view. The narration of the story also somewhat mirrors Mrs. Dalloway, shown with description of what Clarissa thinks of certain objects and people she sees on the street, her plans, and the attempt at flowing other characters thoughts as she passes (which doesn’t have the same smoothness of Woolf).
When Clarissa is walking through the park and meets another friend, we discern she, like “M.D.” Clarissa, also has a daughter, her daughter begrudging her for her conventionalism. Clarissa invites Walter, her friend to the party in the evening if he and his partner will be up to it and also states the reason for her party and how Richard had won an award. We are then told Walter’s invite could possibly upset Richard and their friend Sally, in support of him because of Walter’s profession and possibly due to his personality when it came to his shallowness. When he leaves, we determine Sally and Clarissa live together (seeming to give the Clarissa of “M.D.” a future she could live rather than possibly fantasize about); I’m also recognizing how Cunningham has long run on paragraphs like Woolf, but because his flow differs, it gives me the feeling like I must struggle to get through it rather than flow with it, regrettably.
We then identify Richard not liking Sally because of her personality and he and Clarissa used to having fantastic arguments, but because of his illness this side of their relationship had taken a backseat. Clarissa then goes to a book shop to look for a gift for another friend and also thought of buying a dress for Julia she wouldn’t likely wear. She continues with a memory from her childhood which gives her a feeling she hoped to discover one of the books could embody for the both of them and then thinks of Mary Krull who seemed to have a hold on her daughter (similar to Elizabeth and Doris Kilman). Clarissa then goes to the flower shop and has another childhood memory before greeting the florist, Mary Krull warmly, after which we get some background on Mary and then Clarissa begins choosing flowers leftover from Mary’s busy week of supplying for weddings and whatnot until they hear a crash from the street (straight out of Mrs. Dalloway). They figure the noise came from the “movie people” who have set up camp in the area and then Clarissa sees a woman come out of a trailer she can’t identify, but knows must be a famous star. We get Clarissa’s interpretation of what goes on between the woman and one of the crew before she withdraws once more into her trailer.
We next get Virginia Woolf’s perspective, starting with how she thought Clarissa’s story should begin and then dreaming of being in a vibrantly green park and awaking with the feeling left by the dream, but forgetting the line she wanted to add to her story, not bothered since she was aware of the feeling it gave still. As she washes her face in the bathroom we are given the same quirk Septimus had, but is now showing in Virginia’s personality, which was her avoidance of looking in the mirror for fear of what it would show. When she then gets coffee and heads for the printing room where she discovers Leonard looking over page proofs and greeting Virginia, asking how she’d slept, and she answering with insouciance. We then learn of Leonard’s cheerleader status of Virginia’s work and how he considered her the most intellectual and surprisingly talented woman in England, he attempting to insist breakfast on her, but she maintaining coffee will be enough, he relenting, but making certain she takes a proper lunch, she consenting for wanting to get straight to work, which she does by retiring upstairs to begin. She’s quite self-aware of how she will feel and if she will be able to get into the right state for a fruitful session of writing, we seeing she was beginning her foray into Mrs. Dalloway.
We then continue in California, 1949 and follow a Mrs. Laura Brown who was reading, but shouldn’t have been for whose birthday it was, feeling she should be preparing breakfast for Dan and Richie, but hearing Dan already downstairs with Richie and thinking she should be, as well. She had started her day late, though (7 am) and was consumed by a dream she’d been having and was aware the day wouldn’t be an easy one for it. We then learn she’s given allowances for her lapses in judgement due to being pregnant. She decides she’ll make up for missing breakfast by baking the “perfect” cake and other tasks. She goes on reading to calm herself and we get an excerpt from Mrs. Dalloway, she then expressing how she would spend her whole life reading if she could. We then discover Dan was in a situation where his identity had been mistaken for someone with a similar name and was believed dead for a couple days, but came back unchanged, fortunately from his military service. We then distinguish how the two had known each other and she seeming similar to Clarissa’s daughter, Elizabeth with her foreign-seeming features in comparison with her relatives. We then continue reading with Laura as she reads Virginia Woolf’s novella, Laura wondering how Virginia came to kill herself when she could write such beautiful sentences, she planning on reading all of Woolf’s novels.
Laura hopes she had some touch of brilliance which people noticed, having fantasies about what others would be impressed with, she leaving this thought and readying to go downstairs, feeling unprepared like she was about to go onstage without proper rehearsing. As she pauses before entering the kitchen, we get a feel for her peccadillo about her husband and reaffirming how she’d contribute to her husband’s birthday. He notices how she seemed annoyed at he not waking her, but they both discussing gently in front of their three-year-old of he not wanting to disturb her only because he naturally woke up at dawn, albeit regardless of she wanting to be able to make his breakfast for him. He then promises to do so the next morning and then begins the rituals of getting ready to go off to work, Laura not as sure of herself when being left alone with her son, straining to keep a steady hold on how to unceasingly act a mother’s part. She decides to continue their day by getting him to finish his breakfast, whilst she contemplated whether her reading so late in the night could affect the baby, having an irrational fear of being told she shouldn’t read, deciding she’ll make an effort to go to bed earlier, cutting her reading back. She then shares with Richie their main plan for the day, she deciding she will do all the necessary tasks a mother and wife should.
Clarissa is then shown walking toward the trailer where she saw a crowd of tourists congregating, she with her bouquet of flowers and overhearing two girls argue whether the woman within was Susan Sarandon or Meryl Streep (an interesting choice, now I think of it), Clarissa believing it to be the latter. She uncomfortably awaits the star’s reappearance, but gives up to continue on to Richard’s apartment. When she gets closer to his street she begins to remember way back when on a certain corner where the two had argued over something, she not quite remembering, then reminiscing about the stores, some still from the era referenced being there, but selling items only tourists would be interested in. When she goes into the lobby of Richard’s building, she rates and is repeatedly surprised by the seedy look of it, thinking about how differently the building must have begun. She tries the elevator only to get back out on the ground floor for it not seeming to work properly, climbing the five flights to Richard’s floor, he calling for her to enter and she debating whether or not to bring up the nickname she didn’t feel necessary to continue using, then thinking it wasn’t the right time.
When Clarissa gets in and greets him, opening a blind for more light since his lamps all had low wattage bulbs, she then regards his trashed chair which he refused to get rid of, smelling the rot of it and asking how he felt since he didn’t sleep much those days due to medication induced hallucinations. We then learn a bit more about Richard’s views of life and the people around him, seeing them in a very precise light, Clarissa then making sure he remembers the party and ceremony later, he so fogged he thought it already happened, Clarissa then promising to stay by him the whole night. Richard then voices his embarrassment for what he thinks is a wrongful win of the award he’d be receiving and Clarissa continuing to reassure him, she suggesting he nap before she came back to help him dress, he giving in and she thinking of how their lives would have been if they’d gone a different course than the one they’d lived.
Mrs. Woolf is swallowed by time for two hours and was feeling powerful about what she’d accomplished, also knowing she may not like any of what she’s written by the next day. She reads over what she has, believing it to be acceptable, some parts more-so. She had the hope this would be her finest novel, considering how her main character, Clarissa would die. She then noticing she’d like to write all day, but something stopping her which makes her think she shouldn’t overdo it since it could ruin her progress. She also didn’t like doing anything but write when she could, due to the fear of a “headache” getting in the way. She goes into how all encompassing it is which warrants a better word than “headache” to describe it, but for fear of sounding melodramatic calling it only by this. We learn when the voices are heard during the pain threshold and how once she’s finished with an episode and had rest, she’s ready to continue to write, believing the pain a requirement, but hasn’t made the descent in years, also knowing how swiftly they could return and wanting to be in London if she must return to madness. She then wonders whether to continue writing or break, perpetually being torn by the possibility of being lazy, but she’s reached her goal for the day and considers she should be patient, she having tomorrow to write more.
Virginia walks out of the room and is greeted by Ralph, who was working with Leonard reading proofs and despite the greeting, he not having a good morning. We discover Virginia’s stance to Leonard’s assistants at the printing press and invariably stayed loyal to Leonard regardless of his unfair attitude toward his employees. Virginia indicates needing a walk before helping the two with their project. We then learn of Ralph and Leonard’s traits when it came to their work. Virginia’s next statement taken wrongly by Ralph when it seemed she was coming to his support, she actually boosting Leonard’s spirits, but not correcting his goofy relief.
Meanwhile, Laura Brown is preparing ingredients for the cake whilst admiring a bird passing the window. She then includes Richie in the process, overly proud with his response to her question regarding the number of cups of flour they needed for the cake. Laura is content with her life and family at this moment, making the cake she’ll soon bake feeling on par with those in magazines and other grand contentment which comes from being satisfied with one’s place in the world. She then has Richie play a part in the process of measuring out the flour and depositing it into an empty bowl, the task being performed concisely and uncertainly, but Laura giving him verbal support he’s completing the task successfully. For a moment Laura gives the impression of something going wrong which puts poor Richie on the verge of tears, but she quickly reverses her statement to reassure he’s done his part correctly and asking if he’s ready to repeat the process, he relieved and wanting to try again. Laura then regains her enduring love for her son and realizes she will want this second child and is glad she’s married (all of this sounding like she’s kidding herself since her life sounds bloody idyllic, the dope. I hope for her sake I’m reading her positive reinforcements for herself incorrectly).
Mrs. Woolf is then shown walking down the street thinking of the details of Clarissa Dalloway’s suicide. She maps out her first love in her youth and her growth into womanhood making her see she shall marry, then considering how to make her inevitable suicide properly heart-rending. She continues her focus on Clarissa’s friend from childhood, deciding to leave the specific details of her death to be worked out more fully, later. As she walks, an old woman brings to her attention she must be speaking aloud to herself again and is prepared to defend herself if necessary upon the old woman passing her, but not getting further reaction she continues her walk. Virginia thinks of her own sister, whom mirrors a habit she’s given to one of her characters and then considers how much she misses London and the reason they had moved to the dull town being for her health, but all the while, wanting to “return to the dangers of city life…”.
Before reentering her home, she readies herself to remember herself properly, not only for her hubby and maids, but mainly for reacclimating herself to her own principles. She then considers the differences between herself and male writers, they seeming to have a particular viewpoint of literature compared to herself and moving her thoughts again back to what will eventually topple Clarissa over the edge. Virginia makes her way down to the kitchen after hanging her coat, in the character she believed “Virginia Woolf” would and learns from the cook what they will be having for lunch, she having the option to request whatever she wishes, but doesn’t, approving of the menu even though she didn’t care for most of what was listed, Virginia mentioning since her sister would be joining them she wanted a specific side with their tea later, the item requested needing to be gotten from London. Nelly, the cook seems to think it may be too late in the morning to go to London if lunch were to be ready on time at four, but Virginia explains the time frame and imagines Nelly is passive-aggressively responding to her. Virginia then relates how Clarissa won’t have these social issues with her servants and their want to go above and beyond her wishes will be affirmed.
Clarissa is then shown meeting Sally at the door of their apartment, the latter sharing of she having a lunch appointment with a “movie star” and had tidied before being off. Clarissa not previously knowing of her meeting, but not holding it against her and wishing her a nice time before the two part. All the while, Clarissa is thinking of how Sally doesn’t look good in yellow and will disclose this to her later. After Clarissa goes inside, she thinks of her ruined plans of she and Richard growing old together and then of how lucky she and Sally were with the apartment they inhabited in New York. She then senses how whilst looking around, she didn’t feel as if her home was hers in this moment. She comes to understand if she were to leave all these bric-a-brac behind, she wouldn’t miss them, nor Sally or Richard, but be able to be comfortable with herself, alone (I can relate).
Clarissa doesn’t seem to necessarily feel repressed, but there is a sense of being content in her apartment by herself, at this moment and then the feeling leaves and she throws away some old flowers and thinks of the plans ahead of her and her contentment in the rituals of her life with her partner. She listens to messages from the caterer they’ve hired, a friend needing to go see a friend who is also ill, and a request from a guest if they could bring a plus-one. Clarissa then thinks of the possibility Sally hadn’t specified her lunch was due to she not being invited (also what happens to Clarissa Dalloway), even though she’s met Oliver and had a personal conversation with him, but she believed her lack of invite was because she may be thought of as only a housewife which didn’t bother her as much as thinking her popularity in the art world and her career were waning; Also realizing Oliver most likely hadn’t passed over inviting her on purpose, but only because he hadn’t thought to extend the invitation.
Clarissa then is aware of the nearby sounds outside as she does some busy work in her apartment. She having a flashback of a time when she was eighteen and believing everything was at her fingertips, but it falling mainly on the house she and her roommates shared (one of them being Richard) and how this had influenced her move to New York. Meanwhile she’s still endeavoring to convince herself she doesn’t care Oliver hadn’t invited her to lunch, then thinking back to her experimental college years with Richard and his boyfriend, Louis. She then considered what her life would have been if she’d returned Richard’s kiss on a significant night, but then realizes to stray too far from one’s principles for love would not be a stable and responsible course of action. Clarissa then shares her memory of the night Richard and she had kissed, along with how they’d spent their time after this day and considering why she’d think back nostalgically to those times was because she was more optimistic and happy then, and the kiss was the only memory which mattered.
Laura Brown is now realizing her cake is well below the standards she’d expected. Nothing was actually wrong with it, but she thought it would be larger and more pretty, the one she looked at seeming unprofessional. At the same time she also tried to ease her own mind, knowing she was being too hard on herself and instead focused on the chores she would be attending to later. She then considers Dan’s responses to the gifts she’ll be giving him and how he consistently showed thankfulness but not ever seeming to truly want something, unfailingly content with what he already had. Laura begins thinking of her comfortable life and pleasant husband, deciding if there was something missing in her life and what it would be. Kitty then knocks at the door and Laura is torn between answering and feeling too frumpy and wanting to wait until she left, but then Richie rushes in and, like an excitable dog shouting about the visitor at the door with happiness and nervousness, she decides.
Laura opens the door and invites Kitty in for coffee after she inquires if Laura would be able to do a favor for her, she seeing Laura’s cake, noticing she continually glancing at it and stating how she thought it was “cute”, completely tearing down Laura’s idea she was indifferent to how crap it looked, the review making her feel her attempt was childish (she must having forgotten, she was making the “monstrosity” with a child; sounds like Laura is riddled with hormones). They make idle conversation and we get background as to how Laura knew Kitty, she treasuring their neighborly friendship, but knowing they wouldn’t have been friends in high school. We then learn about Kitty’s husband and his civil service as well as Laura’s husband in comparison, understanding more as to why Laura had married him, after which, the two making idle chitchat.
Kitty then gets down to why she’s come by, which gives some insight to Laura’s curiosity about why she hadn’t started a family with her husband yet. Laura then began seeing Kitty as someone to be revered and to look up to for her bravery, having customarily blamed Ray as being the issue to her barrenness. Laura then shows her empathy for Kitty’s situation by instigating a hug and then considering how men must feel when comforting women. Kitty then shares of she being fine, but is more worried about her sensitive husband, Laura advising her to let go of this train of thought for the moment. The two then share an intimate moment which Kitty ends first, Laura internally taking the blame and seeing Richie watching. Kitty then confirms the task needing looking after before leaving, Laura stating she’d call her in the hospital. After, noticing her son’s multi-emotional look and wanting to return to bed and book, instead leading Richie to the living room to entertain himself whilst she dealt with making a cake she can be proud of, dumping the last, and planning carefully to avoid another “failure”.
As Virginia helps Leonard and Ralph, Lottie informs them of Mrs. Vanessa Bell having returned with her children, Virginia not expecting them for two more hours. Meanwhile Marjorie is wrapping books up in twine and speaks of wanting to have finished by this time, Virginia hiding her reaction to Marjorie’s voice. Leonard announces of being unable to stop his work at the moment and will meet them at the designated hour if Vanessa waits. Virginia states she’ll handle Vanessa, aware of how unkempt she looked and would have been more prepared if Vanessa had come at the proper time. Virginia resists looking in the mirror, knowing Vanessa would let her know. Virginia greets her warmly and we are described of Vanessa’s features and differences to Virginia, whom is three years younger, but doesn’t look it. Vanessa states how they’d finished earlier than expected in London and had decided to journey to Virginia’s for lack of activities, her sons and daughter in the garden moving a dying bird from the road. As they walk to the children and talk, Virginia notes how Vanessa has the proper air of how one would react to servants and sisters, firm but forgiving.
When they reach Vanessa’s offspring, they begin speaking of how they must save it and Virginia struggling to relate to them, but Vanessa habitually being honest and unyielding when need be, letting them know they wouldn’t be taking the bird indoors and it most likely going to die regardless of their efforts. Vanessa’s daughter thinks of the “brighter” side by spouting the idea of having a funeral for the bird and will sing, Julian reminding her of it still being alive and attending to making a bed for it. Virginia estimates the children’s looks and how they may change when grown, she then offering to pick flowers with Angelica as well as the grass she was collecting. Angelica then was adamant she would locate the nest in case the dying bird had eggs to care for, her brothers getting amused by her belief she would be able to hatch them.
Virginia was suggesting they place the bird in the pallet made, but Angelica insisted they lay the roses in first which Virginia would argue with if her sister and nephews weren’t present. Angelica arranges the flowers, nicely to Virginia’s surprise and then they are ready to have the bird placed in the middle, Quentin undertaking the task as Virginia remembers when Julian had no longer seemed like a child and Angelica getting bored with her game now she’s designed the deathbed. Virginia realizes the bird had died on it’s wait to be placed on its final resting place and the group moves indoors for early tea. As she watches her sister and nephew walk inside, she contemplates wanting to change places with the bird so she could lay in the bed of roses and how the nest looked like it could be a hat, then considering Clarissa’s role as no longer being thought of as the bride of death, but the bed.
We then see Clarissa organizing a vase of flowers and confirming to herself of striving to give the best party she could to Richard and looking out for his comfort at the party. She then hears her apartment buzzer go off and goes to investigate who could be ringing, discovering it was Louis and letting him up. She delightedly awaits he showing up at the door, hoping he brings good news and had named the particular feeling he gave her after him whilst she waited. When he turns up, they greet warmly and he gets emotional as he shares when he had arrived in town and Clarissa updating him as to his good timing for Richard’s upcoming party. As she invites him inside, Louis is noticing how she had finally reached the stage of no longer having retained her youthful look and how it was like a small victory for him considering all the time she had gotten with Richard and how he’d written a novel focusing on a character based on Clarissa, but representing her of only complaining about love, regardless of all the years Richard and he had spent together, seeming a bit bitter about the reference he’d received.
After sitting down and making small talk about where Louis was staying, they voice how appreciative they are to see each other, Clarissa offering him a drink, and he noticing how she still maintained her infuriating qualities, then surveying Clarissa’s home and thinking how unlike her style it was and it must having been caused by her partner, Sally. When Clarissa reenters with the waters in hand, Louis realizes despite her obvious dissent in to old age, she still had her charm and style which drew him to her. She remarks upon sitting, how he could stay away for five years, he not saying he’d actually been back more than a few times during those years, but instead commenting on he deciding to stay in New York and wanting to uncover an “honest” job, teaching not cutting it. He then remarks the oddness of Richard’s book, after Clarissa warns him of Richard’s looks having changed and he needing to prepare himself. After his rash decision of Clarissa seeming to have lost her loveliness, he changes his tune whilst they discuss his opinion of Richard’s book and its surprise ending. Clarissa then notifies Louis to keep in mind of Richard’s condition, he maintaining some part of himself, but being a bit more loopy now.
Clarissa then flashes back to a fond memory she had with Louis and Richard after sharing the spot she wanted her ashes to be scattered. Louis then reminiscing about a day where he’d gone back to their college home before moving to California and how the house remained unchanged, Clarissa admitting she’d like to see the house herself again sometime, Louis agreeing it was a good idea if she wanted her ashes scattered there. Clarissa then confesses she didn’t actually mean what she’d said and the summer was the cause of her morbidity. When Clarissa touches Louis’ shoulder, we are given a strange comparison of the two seeming like gladiators (Michael Cunningham certainly came up with some strange metaphors and fantasies to give voice through his characters). Louis then confides he’d fallen in love with one of his students from the previous year and Clarissa immediately goes into her same reaction of wanting to shake him to his senses, Louis explaining the young man’s talent. After reiterating his declaration of love, he begins to weep, even to his own surprise, and only admitting to himself he didn’t actually love him and wouldn’t miss him when he left. As Clarissa comforts him she considers her own relationship and how they at no time truly fought in their eighteen-year relationship, she longing to be in an exciting and not so stable circumstance.
Louis stands and walks to her window whilst now weeping for not only his infatuation, but also his friends and their misfortunes, his train of thought being interrupted by Julia, Clarissa’s daughter coming in and he exerting to get a hold of himself, she greeting him formally and he noting how she’d consistently had a seriousness and quirky way since her youth. When Louis turns to greet her in return, he evaluates how she’d changed since the last time he’d seen her, she growing into herself and obtaining a measured confidence, not beautiful, but “handsome”. Louis decides to leave at this moment, Clarissa making sure he’ll return to the party (the same way Clarissa Dalloway had) and he agreeing he would. We then perceive he had an attraction to Julia he couldn’t explain and wasn’t in accordance to his sexuality and fantasized how they would flee this place together. As he leaves Clarissa’s building, he notices the variety of people along the street as he remembered the days when he’d been with Richard and how their relationship ended and the freedom he felt after.
Laura is found driving along a highway where a fire had recently started and feeling as if she was driving in a dream. We then get back story as to why she’s driving and how it was due to an unsettled, seemingly depressive state of mind, so she dropped Richie off with a neighbor with the excuse of picking up something needed for her husband’s birthday, then instead, deciding to go driving around (since the book reading wasn’t cutting it). Laura convinced herself since she’d completed all necessary tasks for the upcoming birthday party, she deserved some time alone to pursue reading her copy of Mrs. Dalloway without interruption. She thinks about the new cake (which still disappoints her), but is an improvement from the first and then lingering on the thought of her kiss shared with Kitty and the desire behind her thoughts. It now seems like Laura is suppressing her same-sex inclinations by being devoted and still loving her husband, but she moves on to thoughts about why she believed her cake was still labeled as an amateur attempt. She then considers how much time she’ll have to herself before having to return to her life and then has to decide which direction she wanted to go in, debating where she could ferret out a place to quietly read and deciding she’ll splurge on a hotel only so she could sit and read for a couple of hours in peace.
Laura checks in to a hotel which she knows is populated by businessmen and tourists and comes up with a viable excuse as to the absence of any luggage; lying for the first time to someone she didn’t care about (strangely). The attendant doesn’t suspect anything though and Laura gets her key easily. She makes her way to her room, she noticing the quirks of the hotel environment and not yet losing her nervous energy, it only having been moved to a dissociative level. When she sees her unsurprisingly plain room and looks through her window, she again gets a dream-like quality and so lies on the bed, not reading her book yet, but relating to the character of Clarissa Dalloway and how she had felt. After getting comfortable she begins to read, we getting an excerpt of Mrs. Dalloway where Clarissa remembers a time when she’d made a wish, and her thoughts on death. Reading this then made Laura consider how it could be easy to release herself from her life and how her family would react to her absence and then realizing how she loved life too much to do such a thing to her family or herself and how easy it must have been for Virginia Woolf to come to her decision.
Virginia is shown in the kitchen with her sister drinking tea and discussing Vanessa’s daughter not considering a coat a gift, of which she was referring to one at Harrod’s she thought was perfect for her, but felt bad about getting it for her since there wasn’t anything for the boys, believing she could have given the coat to Angelica for her birthday, but she being too young to accept it as a viable gifting option. Virginia is weighing what advice she’d share with her sister whilst also figuring whom should actually commit suicide in her story, no longer believing Clarissa was the right character to do so, and as she’s about to speak, Nelly walks in with the requested china and sugared ginger requested for their tea, Virginia changing her moment to instead kiss her sister. (It seems moments of intimacy should repeatedly be shown with the possibility of sexuality, this moment no different than the others.)
Meanwhile Julia is voicing empathy for Louis’ situation, Clarissa wanting to be him at this moment for having a particular freedom she didn’t. She then thinks of the possibility of he ruining the night for Richard on top of regretting the invite to Walter Hardy. Clarissa then requesting a hug from her daughter and inquiring after her, hoping it didn’t inspire annoyance like it had with her own mother. We are then given the reasons why Clarissa asks after Julia, she believing Richard would not enjoy the party and believing her daughter would speak ill of her to her buddies. Clarissa then tries to make herself feel better with the thought of helping Julia’s self-esteem. (And again, like Mrs. Dalloway, Mary Krull isn’t liked and was awaiting Julia outside for their shopping outing.)
When Clarissa is informed of this, she asks why she hadn’t come up to say, “Hi.”, Julia then showing she didn’t want to oblige, but would since Clarissa was now declining and “releasing” her to Mary, she fetching Mary and upon Clarissa seeing her, sharing the image of a ragged stray a child would bring home in hopes of adopting, Mary’s appearance being grungy, bald, and over forty years of age. Mary and Clarissa go through the normal pleasantries, Mary letting loose with some true feelings she had toward store clerks and the shopping experience in general, after which Julia decides it’s time to go, we getting an inside look of what’s going on inside Clarissa and Mary’s heads, the two snubbing their noses at one another and their ways of life in the Lesbian community. We are then made sure to be aware of Julia’s sexuality and Clarissa wondering if Julia had befriended Mary in lieu of a father figure. We are then shown Mary’s pain of being permanently in the friend zone as Julia urges her to hurry to their task of boot-hunting.
Vanessa has left and Nelly is unnaturally upbeat in Virginia’s eyes, whilst she thinks and fears her novel won’t evoke the emotion desired. Virginia continues to ventures to convince herself she’s satisfied with the night ahead of her and her work tomorrow. She then tricks herself into thinking a headache was coming, but nothing more occurs to support her paranoia and decides a walk is needed. She’s then hit with the thought of being in the dead bird’s territory and a comforting feeling of death is about her, she then thinking what will soon be done with the bird which still laid in its nest of roses. Virginia thought how death made one smaller and reduced a life’s value once it had left the body, essentially the body being waste and any thoughts otherwise was for the delicate eyes and ears of children. Virginia begins in the direction of town, seeing people along the way before deciding she was going into town and didn’t yet know the reason. Virginia then intermittently overhears a couple whom upon the lady hearing a question which makes her react with delight, Virginia goes off and has the thought of being alone and what this will eventually mean, it being described as the devil and the feeling, like a shadow of the headache haunting her and making her react as one would with undertaking to ignore it by not turning around.
Virginia then makes a split decision to take the train to London since shops were already closing in town and she’d rather be walking the London streets. When she reaches the station, though and realizes she had over twenty minutes to wait, she wonders the conversation she’d have with Leonard and his reasons for she not going to London, Virginia knowing his words would be mostly true, but also knowing she was bored to pieces and this wasn’t helping her either. She makes her decision, buys her ticket, and after waiting as long as she could stand, decides to walk around until her train arrives, on her way, running into Leonard, whom she greets jokingly formally. Leonard revealing his worry of not discovering her and feeling as if something being amiss, Virginia not confessing to him of her extended plan and feeling sorry for him; men being so fragile and all. Virginia then voices her want of the two of them to move back to London, he agreeing to discuss it over dinner and wishing she could accustom herself to small city life, she agreeing, and the two returning home, arms linked.
Sally is then seen having her lunch with Oliver, they drinking coffee and Oliver asking for confirmation of Sally and Walter’s opinions of making his screenplay “come alive”, Walter not speaking and Sally avoiding a straight answer. Oliver takes a different approach by complimenting Walter, and Sally imagining how the two would’ve been in their youths, one forever looking like a star whilst the other having a fat-boy look which would spur his knack to knowing where other kids stood on the social food-chain, Walter’s only hold back being not ever having done a thriller before and Sally noticing the difference between the story Oliver was attempting to express as opposed to the others in the genre. Sally then has conflicting feelings about staying and wanting to leave, noticing Oliver’s taste in styling his apartment is similar to how Clarissa was looking and measuring their own.
Sally is then imagining returning the relics brought to her attention in Oliver’s apartment, wanting to put them back in their places of origin, when Oliver asks whether she supported his idea, she not committing to anything, claiming to not understand Hollywood. Oliver tries to get a more solid answer through flattery, finally insisting she must not be certain, she acquiescing into agreement. They discuss ideas of what would be a part of the story, Oliver including Walter, but he not sure for only having recently agreed and needing time to warm up, apparently. Oliver decides to pick his brain at a later date. Sally is about to change her opinion, but decides to not mention it, leaving. We then see Walter and Sally walking down the street together and get the impression of how they both failed and succeeded at Oliver’s lunch, but instead talk of Richard’s party later and how he was doing, Walter making the proper responses, but seeming fake for knowing of his own celebrity. Sally was going to try and ditch him when he hooks her into joining him inside a store upon seeing a t-shirt his boyfriend would like and she feeling sorry for him. As she browses, she thinks of how Clarissa is so difficult to read when it came to appropriate gift-choosing, she being similar to Dan in they both will show their love of the gift, the gifter only discovering later if the gift will be used once or at all.
Sally then becomes sentimental and wants to see Clarissa, deciding to make an excuse to leave Walter who was checking out, attempting to have her wait for him, but she adamant in leaving and only giving him enough time to provide her agreement on the shirt chosen being a good one. The next part reminding me of Clarissa Dalloway’s husband struggling to detect the perfect gift for Clarissa and working a way to confide he loved her, Sally also striving to come up with a gift, but puzzling to decipher another way of saying “I love you” for regularly saying it plainly. We then get a closer idea into how much Sally cares about Clarissa, she then seeing a flower cart and taking the same route of decision as Mrs. Dalloway’s husband. Sally, upon going inside her home though, considering more intimate matters in plainer terms than Richard Dalloway had. Once hearing Clarissa’s voice though, Sally senses something isn’t right, her feelings going sour. Clarissa doesn’t share Sally’s sense of wrongness in the air, instead recapping about Louis and Julia’s passing through. Clarissa then notices the roses and they share a lighter moment since both then noticed the roses already on the table, realizing their pure happiness at this moment.
Laura is late, but not too late, having gotten halfway through her novel and driving to pick up Richie, still immersed in Mrs. Dalloway’s world and era. She imagines herself being someone inside the novel or the author, she then stopping in the babysitter’s drive, she realizing she needed to get her car checked, she then feeling a dissociation to her life, all due to her hotel visit and being in the driveway and thinking warmly of death. Laura then begins feeling faint, wanting to go to her car and leave, but knowing she needed to claim her son and finish her husband’s birthday dinner. Laura then considers how her time alone would stay secret only since she wouldn’t know how to confess such an unusual, but harmless moment in her typical house-wife existence. She rings the bell and apologizes for her tardiness, the sitter not bothered and Richie rushing to the door, Laura having a moment of paranoid low self-esteem (as is seemingly her usual behavior; this story could be perfect for a psychology major).
As Richie arrives at Laura, he bursts into tears, she apparently having gauged his emotional state correctly, the gist being he had started to believe his sitter’s home would now be where he’d continue to live. As the sitter relays how much fun they had in her absence, we are also made to believe she was resentful and angered by Richie’s reaction since she had thought staying with her was a theme park-like visit to Richie, Laura wondering if people thought she was over protective of him and why he reacted this way consistently. Laura shares how they were an hour late in getting back and needed to have dinner prepared in time for Dan’s return, Laura now feeling like herself and fitting in her life once more. Laura notices Richie staring at her from the back and questions if everything was alright, he loudly professing his love to her, she returning his sentiments as naturally as she could muster whilst deciphering this new look on his face and nervous in knowing he will perpetually be attentive to her every move, she nonchalantly making conversation of how beneficial Dan’s hours were and they orchestrating a great party and she then thinking how Richie will unceasingly be able to sense if anything’s wrong and notice her failures, but she reiterating her love to her son and maintaining a smile as she doesn’t get angry, on their way home. (The emotions we are told about which Laura isn’t feeling are baffling and possibly showing her conviction to wanting to be happy with her life and future.)
Clarissa goes to Richard’s to help him prepare for his party, but doesn’t get a response at his door. She tries once more before using her own key, apprehensive to what she’ll walk in on, seeing the apartment bathed in light for all the shades being opened and the filthiness of the place revealed. Clarissa discovers Richard sitting astride the window, marveling at the beauty of the outside, she demanding he get down from his perch on the window. When Clarissa voices she’s unsettled by how he’s acting, he gives the impression he’s going further out the window and then shares the medicinal cocktail he’d taken to make him feel so good and the difficulty he’d had getting to the spot he was currently sitting, Clarissa requesting he at least put his foot back on the floor, he then confiding he didn’t feel he could come to the party, she stating he didn’t have to go, feeling like she were calm and once again apart from herself.
Clarissa imagined this moment as a memory and asks Richard to come back in once more. Richard looks seriously at her in response and she tries a stern tone, he then nodding, but not moving, confessing his thoughts of coming to the end of his ability to continue his existence further, she attempting to remind him of still having good days and he regarding her statements as nice, but feeling otherwise, Clarissa then inquiring if he was hearing the voices, he responding he was hearing her, but they forever being there; Richard continuing to come back to the beauty of the day and asking Clarissa to call his mother since she didn’t have anyone and finally requesting a story from Clarissa’s day, she describing of her time buying flowers, keeping the description brief and ending with her command of getting inside. Richard is then reminded of when they were young and being in love with her and Louis, circling to his thought of being a failure and she disagreeing, Richard going on to explain of wanting to have his work seen a certain way, she having to deny it being a “foolish” thought. Richard again repeating being unable to attend the party and Clarissa wanting to ease his mind and not to worry about it, offering to have him take her hand. He states his love to her (in a way I believe is from Virginia Woolf’s last letter to her husband) before he slides out the window.
Clarissa’s reaction was screaming in denial and then almost believing it hadn’t happened due to the look of calm on his face, but when she reaches the window, she’s in time to still see his descent, it almost seeming like it could end being only minimally damaging, but as he reaches his inevitable destination, Clarissa calling out softly, questioning, his head covered by his robe, she running out of the apartment still in shock and confused for a moment as to how to reach the spot Richard had fallen. When she gets a closer look she realizes the damage his landing had, then noticing glass and realizing it wasn’t caused by his fall and wanting to move him, but instead moves his robe, but after seeing the state of his face, paining and surprising her, she puts it back, leaving a hand on his shoulder and not wanting to leave him, but also realizing no one had noticed Richard fall, she knowing the police should be called, struggling to come up with an idea of getting the attention of a neighbor, she considering the feelings unexpressed and for not showing and confiding her love for him caused by flimsy excuses.
Laura is now watching Dan blow out the candles on his cake, hyper aware of the moment and Richie following her lead of applause once the candles are no longer lit. After she’s wished him a happy birthday, we are told of her pure anger at his apish ways and her fate of living this life and this role with him indefinitely, but the fury passes and he shows his affection in a way which makes her regret her reaction and noting his good qualities, she feeling the back of his head and again, describing it in a way which shows displeasure of the pure manliness and halfway unpleasant physicality. Dan offers Richie the task of helping cut the cake as Laura retrieves dinnerware for the slices and thinking of Kitty in the hospital whilst they, along with other families on the block set up their dinner tables. Laura then realizes the significance of her life with husband and son plus child on the way as she watches Richie pull out candles and is urged to lick the frosting off.
Virginia is attempting to keep focused on the book she is reading, knowing she and Laura will soon be moving to London. She thinks of all the places she’ll go and activities she’ll do, all of these moments feeding her stories. She then thinks of the kiss she shared with Vanessa and what it represented, then considering Clarissa Dalloway going to have a kiss which she’ll carry with her throughout her life. Virginia closes her book which prompts Leonard to ask if she’s ready to sleep, she declining due to restlessness and he hoping she’ll be ready in an hour, she agreeable since the fight for London was won, thinking again of Clarissa and whom will die being a brilliant, wonderful person.
Laura is getting ready for bed and anticipating her husband’s pose in bed not ever changing, and how she won’t be able to read this night. She puts her toothbrush and accessories away, noticing the recently refilled scrip. of sleeping pills, knowing she couldn’t use them whilst pregnant. She picks up the bottle and imagines the simpleness of ending everything. She goes into her bedroom, Dan greeting her, and she confirming he had a nice birthday, she feeling “like a ghost”, not feeling her body, taking so long to get in bed, Dan asking if she were going to lie down, she confirming, but not moving, hearing a dog bark. Knowing the woman is unhappy with life and is most likely verging on suicidal unless she comes to terms with her same sex inclinations is a bit annoying since we don’t get a determinate answer on how she ends up, only knowing she’s alone.
Clarissa is leading an old woman, Laura (double-take moment when I read this part, but it does come together if one pays attention) into her apartment where Clarissa notices her unarranged flowers once more. Clarissa introduces Laura to her daughter, Julia whom catches Clarissa up on those who had shown up to the party since not receiving the message, Louis being one of those focused on. Julia offers to get Laura a drink after she declines food from Clarissa, but setting an assortment, in case, knowing it had been awhile since she’d eaten.
Clarissa then gives away whom Laura is and why she’s at her apartment and would be staying overnight in the guest room, not the main reason being Laura was from Richard’s poetry, Clarissa then making a statement which she regrets due to they soon would be having enough people stating of Richard’s goodness, but Laura agrees with her and takes it well. Clarissa struggling to make conversation and wondering aloud about the status of Laura’s tea, then inwardly thinking of what Richard’s descent from the window must have been like, deciding to go check, coming into the kitchen to observe the selection of appetizers put out, impressed with the amount and thinking of its shelf-life lasting longer than everyone she knew. Clarissa then gauging the lasting power of Richard’s work and how Richard’s party would now only be entertaining four, Clarissa going back to the living room to fetch Laura.
Well, I certainly don’t remember the movie much since none of the story rang any bells other than a fuzzy image of Meryl Streep playing Clarissa, so I may have to revisit viewing it only to be a completist and having been surprised by Nicole Kidman’s transformation. In knowing the resources Cunningham researched, I suppose I’m less surprised by all the sexual references made, which only makes me wonder about the truth behind his fiction. I may do further research on Woolf, but until then, this was quite an interesting story and held my attention fairly consistently, which makes it worth the read by itself, but moreso if one has read Mrs. Dalloway.