Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Movie Review: Hope Springs

Hope Springs is a deeply insightful movie about growing old, both in age and in relationships, that I found emotionally moving and profound.

Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) are in a marriage that is stultifying, oppressive, monotonous, and unrewarding - at least for one of them. Kay and Arnold sleep in separate beds, get up at the same time every day, meet in the kitchen for breakfast (Arnold reads the paper while Kay cooks the food), there is a perfunctory goodbye, and Arnold leaves for work. When Arnold returns from work, he watches TV (without any consideration of Kay's wishes), and they retire to separate rooms. The next day it all starts again. Arnold seems happy but Kay is desperate for a more meaningful relationship and can't bear it any longer. She explores her local bookshop for inspiration and discovers a book by Dr Feld (Steve Carell in a straight role), a successful marriage counsellor who runs a retreat for couples. Arnold very reluctantly agrees to go to the week long retreat where Kay and Arnold travel on a difficult journey to ... well, I'll let you find out.

Hope Springs brings Streep and Jones together and both are superb in their roles. I haven't been a fan of Meryl Streep for some time but this role seemed to fit her like a glove. And Tommy Lee Jones is surprising as the husband with Steve Carell playing the therapist with a straighter face than I've seen him do before.

Most of the story occurs in Dr Feld's office and is highly dialogue driven. But the sensitive performances of the cast had me totally engaged and, by the end of the movie, I really cared about these two characters in so much pain. Hope Springs is more drama than comedy or romance - although there are some very humourous moments and the romance is deeper than most of the fluffly type we are usually forced to sit through.

At one point in the story, Kay, speaking of Arnold, says that 'he is everything. But I'm ... I'm really lonely. And to be with someone, when you're not really with him can ... it's ... I think I might be less lonely ... alone.' Surely there are people suffering loneliness despite having others around them. It is one of the most difficult pains to bear. But Kay proves that hope springs eternal in the human breast and Hope Springs will, hopefully, inspire us to work at our relationships so that we do not find ourselves alone while just eking out an existence under the same roof as our partner.

Positive Review

'I think everything about the movie is too subtle and real to appeal to the Batman demographic, but for mature audiences who have forgotten how to smile, it takes up where The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel left off.' - Rex Reed/New York Observer

Negative Review

'When the sing-song Jones and beatifically smiling Streep are allowed to carry the dramatic weight, you can see the raw, tough-love film that Hope Springs wants to be - until Frankel starts trying to be lighthearted and cute, at which point you see the movie's real troubled marriage in full bloom.' - David Fear/Time Out New York



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