HOPE SPRINGS ***
Directed by David Frankel
Starring – Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carrell
DAVID FRANKEL’S comedic feature, Hope Springs, certificate 12A is a gentle and heartfelt romantic comedy that explores the deteriorating relationship between a married couple after 30 years of marriage.
Starring Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep, the two Academy Award winning actors create a believable onscreen middle-aged couple in Arnold and Kay. Their marriage has seemingly broke, with the two getting on with their separate lives, but still living under the same roof. The two are still very much in love with each other, but have seemingly grown complacent with each other, but there’s no passion or romance in their relationship. More importantly there is no intimacy between the two, as they now sleep in different beds
Streep’s character finally has enough and after reading a book by Dr Field, she decides to sign up for marriage counselling for the two. Despite Arnold’s initial protests he reluctantly agrees to go on the expensive excursion to attend the intense week-long counselling session to work on their marriage.
Field’s character played by Steve Carrell, tries to make the two open up to each other, emotionally and more importantly physically. Asking them to remember the good points of their relationship, when they were both happy and when their sex-life was good. In a touching scene, Arnold poignantly remembers an intimidate encounter with his wife, in their kitchen when she was heavily pregnant.
He encourages the two to act out their fantasies to spice things up, resulting in probably the funniest moment in a film in an empty movie theatre. As the two begin to regain their confidence with each other, they slowly open up to each other for the first time in years. Rekindling the passion that had been absent in their relationship for so long.
Frankel’s directorial style is simple yet very effective at times, whilst Kay and Arnold are attending their marriage counselling, the two sit at either ends of Field’s sofa, like two strangers uncomfortable with each other’s presence. As the film progresses the two slowly get closer together on the sofa, as their relationship improves, but also further apart after each setback setbacks. It’s a simple tool, but easily let’s viewers see the progression the two are making.
The greatest strength of the feature is the fine performances by its two leading stars. Meryl Streep is fantastic as the frustrated wife, determined to save her marriage. In one powerful scene she tells Carrell’s character that despite living with her husband, she’s never felt so alone, than when she’s with him.
The actress might get all the accolades for her performance, but the limelight is stolen from her by a wonderful performance by Tommy Lee Jones. His character goes through the biggest personal journey throughout the film, reluctantly opening up to Carrel’s character and reluctantly discussing his sex life. Arnold has his eyes opened to the fact that his perfect marriage, isn’t as perfect as he believes and what he must do to save it. Jones’ performance might not be as big as Streep’s but it is much more powerful and thought provoking.
With such great performances by the two central actors, it’s such a shame that Carrell can’t complete the trio. His performance is simply too understated in comparison. His character never opens up to Kay or Arnold and was just too dull and quiets a character for my likening. Personally I’d have much preferred his character to have been more like a Barbara Sreisand’s character, Rozalin Focker from Meet The Fockers.
Overall, while not a laugh out loud comedy, it would be unkind not to admit that there is a genuine sweetness about the feature that ultimately won me over. The great performances by the leading duo, holds the film together and maintained my interest levels throughout. Some viewers might find the film’s ending a little too Hollywood, like the recent comedy The Five Year Engagement, no matter how bad things got between the two, I never for a second doubted the feature wouldn’t resolve itself onscreen with a positive outcome.
As cinema box-office’s continue to dwindle throughout the globe, studios are waking up to the fact, they’re under-serving a large cinema going demographic, the over 50’s. No longer will period dramas and historical features cater for their requirements, films like, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and have shown there are viewers willing to spend their money to see film’s like this.
REVIEW BY WILLIAM MCCLEAN