A romantic dramedy about a postmenopausal couple who have lost their sexual spark is simply not a film that appeals to me. But then I got to thinking: how many American films have I heard of, let alone seen, about this very topic? Furthermore, how many of those movies actually generate a fair amount of positive reviews? So, stray I did. And, happily, I report that Hope Springs is a perfect movie for the demographic it is targeting. That’s not only the nicest way I can assess the film, but the most accurate, too.
And that is pretty much how Hope Springs goes. Kay cries, Arnold gets angry, and Feld plays moderator. The difference here is that the collective talents of Streep, Jones and, to a much lesser degree, Carell, work harmoniously to not make the film a complete wash. There’s genuine, heartfelt emotion at the core of this thing, and Streep and Jones are expert at fully flexing the faulty (but forgivable) material.
As Kay, Streep is miles above the Margaret Thatcher impersonation that won her an Oscar a few months ago. This is a complex, contradictory woman who slowly, painfully realizes that her husband is only half to blame for her marital problems. But the real show stopper here is Jones. More often than not, we’re used to seeing Jones as that prototypical, well, Tommy Lee Jones character. The mean old son of a bitch who has a brimming soul behind the scowl. Occasionally, Jones is given an opportunity to reaffirm his skill at vulnerability. Hope Springs is such a case. (For more, see In the Valley of Elah, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, and Blue Sky, to name a few.)
Look, Hope Springs isn’t a game changer in the slightest. Aside from its sturdy acting and dutiful depiction of the problem it’s selling, it doesn’t have a lot going for it. Director David Frankel (who directed Streep to an Oscar nomination via The Devil Wears Prada) hasn’t a clue how to effectively implore cinematography, and his musical cues (both in score and song form) are obnoxiously off, but, you know, who cares? Me? A little. The rest of the sold out crowd who applauded during the credits? Hell no. They were in for that rare movie that spoke to them about legitimate problems they may or may not be having (or have had). Fair enough.
I won’t be recalling Hope Springs at my end of the year round up, nor I will it be surprised when it simply fades away in a month or so. But, for the 100 minutes it asked for my attention, I was glad to abide. B