Hope Springs Reviews
She teams up with director David Frankel, who had a smash hit with 'The Devil Wears Prada' a few years ago. And then three little-known actors, Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, and Steve Carell, sign onto the project. How does that happen for a first-time screenwriter, and a female one at that? Amazing. She has a lot to be proud of.
The movie is definitely not great. It's a television-level script directed in a television style. But it's thoroughly enjoyable. I laughed out loud countless times. And when is it not enriching to the depths to watch the great Meryl Streep in action? How lucky we are that she continues to work.
Here Streep plays a housewife around age 65 grappling with the realization that her marriage has shriveled to almost nothing. She makes a real effort to revive it by getting into marriage counseling -- and sex therapy -- with her husband. Jones plays her ornery, macho, shut-down husband.
There are many things to appreciate about this movie, starting with the fact that Streep and Jones kept their portrayals very close to real life. They have no movie-star glamour whatsoever, and there's no ironic distancing from the material. The script is about a semi-educated suburban couple, and at every moment the characters feel true to life and true to their generation -- the generation born around the time of World War II.
These characters never got swept up by the counter-culture in the 1960s. They never smoked pot. It doesn't appear that either one has ever had an affair. They're people who have always colored inside the lines. Now for the first time, she is feeling the need for some assistance that doesn't fit in with her generation. She wants a sex therapist. The hesitation she has, and then the full-on resistance her husband has to the idea, are a lot of fun to watch. And again, this resistance to newfangled ideas is so true to life, speaking as someone with parents in this generation.
Another special element of "Hope Springs" is its frankness about sexuality. We go into the sex therapist's office with the couple and listen to many of their sessions. (Carell plays the therapist.) They are asked blunt questions. When was the last time they had sex? Do they masturbate? When they were having sex, was it only vaginal? Was it always in the missionary position? Did they ever have oral sex? How often? What sexual fantasies do they have?
It's not often you hear 65-year-olds talking about how they masturbate! It was quite bracing to hear sexual details being discussed by characters of this generation. American society has a real taboo against discussing and depicting the sexuality of people over 60. I'll admit there was some discomfort in listening to this. At times it felt like ripping a Band-Aid off. It hurt a bit, but it also felt good. And you knew it was important and the right thing to do.
A most hilarious scene involves Streep's character reading a book called "Sex Tips for Straight Women From a Gay Man" and using a banana to practice oral sex.
It's not only about sex though. The deeper issues revolve around when the couple stopped talking at deeper levels to each other. Through the course of middle age, something inside each of them began to shut down. The therapy tries to dig into that as well.
Yes, it's simple. But "Hope Springs" is a delight to watch. It is very funny in parts and very tender in parts. It helps American culture get over one of its last sexual taboos, and it explores the tendency for relationships to ossify over time. It renews one's faith that marriages can be revived if both parties have the courage. And it reminds us that life after 60 can be downright adventurous -- even for ordinary people at the multiplex in Anytown, USA.
Nate's Grade: B+
(Donā(TM)t believe me? Then look at the box-office numbers of films such as Sweet Home Alabama & The Proposal. Although mercilessly panned by critics, both went on to gross north of 100 million dollars.)
While the above is clearly the product of a disconcertingly wild imagination, I think the reader can get a sense of my aversion for the genre. Birthed at a tender age, my distain for these types of films has grown exponentially over the years as I have sat through my fair share of Runaway Brides, Because I Said Sos, & Maid In Manhattans. What started out as a minor annoyance soon evolved into a festering grudge. And like any grudge worth its salt, I felt the need to share it with every soul I came into contact with. Especially if that soul didnā(TM)t hold the same views.
One of the first instances of this that I can recall was on a date my junior year of high school. I had the chance to take a lady that I was courting to the newest Kate Hudson & Matthew Mcconaughey vehicle. Perking up every time an advertisement for How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days came on the television, I knew she desperately wanted to see it opening night. Not yet seething with rage over this type of entertainment, I decided to take her & blindly made my way, popcorn in hand, into the dark theater.
The next two hours are kind of a blur & not a pleasant one. As every minute passed I became less than enthused about what was taking place on screen & I slowly grew resentful over the fact that it was being forced into two of my five senses. The only relief that I experienced came from the realization that the movie had finally ended. Close to tears, I hobbled my way over the legs of my fellow moviegoers who were content to sit through the closing credits, & made a beeline for the lobby.
Standing among the towering cardboard cutouts promoting the myriad other films that I would have liked to have seen over the one I just labored through, I waited patiently for my date to emerge from the darkness. While she took a while, presumably to jot down the names of all of the hunks that she just saw on screen, she eventually strolled through the lobby eager to gush over what she just witnessed. Knowing well the importance of tact & not wanting to squash the high that my date was experiencing after such a magical cinematic journey, I quickly blurted out āThat movie was GOD AWFUL!ā? Surprisingly, we didnā(TM)t go out much after that & while her feelings for me soon faded, my revulsion toward romantic comedies only grew stronger.
Like a newly acquired car or the newest Apple product, I relished bringing it up at social functions & always did my very best to steer the conversation in ways which would allow me to easily wedge in my opinion. I might as well have fashioned my own soapbox to bring to these parties where I could stand & deliver my passionate diatribes. I cared naught for a dissenting opinion. Should one rear its ugly head, I was thrilled to have an object at which I could direct my ire. Needless to say, I turned my hatred into a one-man show & rather than attempting to lure souls into a drab theater, I forced the show upon people at events such as dinner parties. In short, I was a jerk about it & in many ways still am.
However, my wife recently expressed a desire to see the new romantic comedy Hope Springs. Like a good husband, I dutifully made it a point to take her to see it even though the filmā(TM)s tagline "Fall in love again this August" had me reaching for a vomit bag. While I once believed my hatred for the genre to be unwavering, Hope Springs softened my heart in many ways. While not a perfect film, it gave me hope (giggles) that should other romantic comedies follow suit, then it might be a genre that I could possibly grow to love.
Kay & Arnold Soames have just hit their 31-year wedding anniversary. Yet, instead of celebrating this impressive milestone, Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) would much rather plop in front of the television & drift off to the serene sounds of the Golf channel. Kay (Meryl Streep) is much less content to just let such an occasion pass by & has in the past made many attempts to pull themselves out of this rut that they have been mired in for the better part of a decade. In fact, things have gotten so bad that the couple have slept in different bedrooms for quite a while now. Even worse, they havenā(TM)t intimately touched each other for years. In a last ditch effort, Kay enrolls her & Arnold into an intensive therapy workshop in a small town off the coast of Maine. After a sustained effort of cajoling, Arnold begrudgingly joins his wife & they find themselves on the couch of Dr. Feld (Steve Carrell).
David Frankel, who last directed Meryl Streep in 2006ā(TM)s The Devil Wears Prada, effectively probes the twilight years of a marriage through long & often uncomfortable therapy sessions. Set in their ways, especially Arnold, Frankel & screenwriter Vanessa Taylor show the fear of shaking things up. Arnold looks crestfallen during the first few sessions, afraid to uncover something about their marriage, or even worse himself, that he is not yet ready to tackle. Kay desires a passionate marriage, but her insecurities preclude her from seeing things from Arnoldā(TM)s point of view.
Which brings me to one of the main strengths of this film. Neither spouse is chiefly responsible for the collapse of the marriage. It is clearly a combination of time, communication breakdown, & unmet expectations. So often romantic comedies revolve around the rehabilitation of a wayward male who is terrified of commitment. Or a woman who has a heart of gold, but is plagued by a crippling social problem or happens to dabble in prostitution. Hope Springs shows that often times there isnā(TM)t a smoking gun to point to. But that years of miscommunication & layers upon layers of words left unsaid have created a scab that is incredibly difficult to pick apart.
Speaking of miscommunication, Hope Springs also tackles the physical aspect of it that films of this ilk rarely do. Since many romantic comedies center on young able-bodied lovers, sex is usually treated as a mere plot point, or as a byproduct of a passionate tryst. A final act that solidifies the love between man & woman. But what if you took out these healthy, robust youths & threw in a couple that has seen decades of time & gravity take its toll. One would see that sex isnā(TM)t something that just comes naturally & even in a partnership of thirty plus years, requires delicate attention.
While I could sit here & go point by point through what sets this film apart from its highly inferior cohorts, the bottom line is that Hope Springs attempts to capture sincerity. In a genre that is riddled with escapist fantasies of love overcoming tremendous odds, Hope Springs is a breath of fresh air. Not that it is without its fair share of problems. In fact, I often found myself wishing the characters would have been a bit more nuanced & the musical selection was so on the nose that I caught myself rolling my eyes in a couple of scenes. However, aided by terrific performances by both Streep & Jones, Hope Springs gives the viewer an honest & often uncomfortable look at what it takes to not only fall, but stay in love.
"Hope Springs" is a tone deaf bit of wish fulfillment that proves once and for all that if Elisbeth Shue is the best thing about a movie, then somebody should definitely hand in their filmmaking license. In trying to be an intimate movie about repairing a marriage, the movie unleashes two huge Hollywood presences who overwhelm everything else. That's not to mention the scenes which should be touching that just end up being deeply uncomfortable to watch. In the end, since all good things come to an end, maybe we should not mourn when a dying marriage ends, thus allowing one person to find happiness and the other to find a golf tournament on television to watch.
After 30 years of marriage, Maeve Soames (Meryl Streep) decides her marriage needs to be spruced up. When she hears that the famous relationship guru Dr. Bernie Feld (Steve Carell) is in town, she convinces her husband Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) to go for a week of intense couples therapy.
The plot of the film is predictable, but most romantic comedies are like this. What I wanted in this film was to see characters that I would enjoy, and I was given characters that I loved. They are kind, funny, and sweet but have their problems just like regular human beings. The story isn't anything new or breathtaking, but it is a fun little story for the older audiences who have been in a marriage for a long time. Some people may be able to relate to these characters situation, and some may not, but either way I believe most married couples will find this to be adorable and funny. I loved the characters and found the story to be innocent and funny, even if we can predict the outcome.
The cast is the films highest honor, and they really picked a good one for this. Meryl Streep is arguably the greatest actress in the history of cinema, and so it's hard for someone like her with that reputation to keep up her great performances with every film she is in. Here is no exception, she really gives the film a sense of being adorable and we love to sympathize with her and help her through her issues. She gave the character so much humanity, and that is the best thing and actress can do. Tommy Lee Jones was obviously a confusing choice for a romantic comedy, but he fits the role brilliantly. He is funny with his sarcasm, he has a lot of heart, and I don't think I would've got the same effect if anyone else had played the role. Steve Carell played a funny and important role in the film, but he really wasn't given that much to do other than some memorable scenes. The cast was brilliant and it's always fun to see what Streep and Jones can cook up for us.
Hope Springs may not be a great film for the younger audiences, but I believe older married couples will really find this to be a beautiful and adorable movie. I laughed, I gazed, and I even teared up thanks to the emotional performances that brought so much heart to the film. I believe that when a movie can bring out emotions in you than that is when you know it's a good film. It's hard to express the happiness I felt when watching this movie, and happiness is a very powerful thing when watching a film. Think of happy films like The Blind Side or I Love You Man; they succeed because people love the characters, and they love the characters because they can relate to them. It's true that this movie is more relatable to married couples and older people will probably enjoy it more, but as a younger man I can say that I still loved the film even though it was nothing new. If you need a lovable and funny movie that will make you smile, Hope Springs will get the job done.
A slice-of-life film that is very limited in actual plot structure, this film's story is paper-thin, and if you know how to work with a film like that, you can get quite a bit of momentum, a reasonable bit of which can, in fact, be found throughout this enjoyable film, though not quite as much as I expected, partially because what actual plotting there is slips into conventions that aren't too glaring, but add to predictability. Of course, even more problematic is an actual offshoot flaw from plot thinness, and that is underdevelopment, because even though exposition does build adequately as the film progresses, you never really find as firm of a grip on the characters and situations as you probably should, being able to distinguish our leads as particularly notable ordinary people, but not so much so that distance is completely done away with. Thinness in both plot and exposition throw off the overall impact of the final product, and recieve more help than expected from, of all things, the film's soundtrack, which isn't used too often, and could be worse, but still rich with off-puttingly underwhelming and tonally unfitting tunes that aren't simply problematic musically, but problematic as a storytelling component, often overemphasizing atmosphere to the point of doing damage to subtlety and undercutting the resonance behind the film's more emotional touches. These moments of musical mishandlings are relatively few and far between, partially because there's only so much musicality to this film, but they are here and slow down momentum, just like the exposition issues, conventionalism and overall plot thinness, yet there is most certainly no issue with this film that is greater than those that deal with pacing, because when it comes to that, the film faults almost to the point of plummeting from general likability. Considering that the final product is indeed likable, pacing issues aren't necessarily tedious, but when this film slows down, it drags its feet something fierce, with trimmable fat, spawned from repetition, overlong sequences and, of course, some rather superfluous moments, and made all the worse by atmosphere that is quiet and dry, with plenty of charm, but not a whole lot of kick, dragging the film along as all too often rather dull and sometimes just plain boring. At the very least, this film's consistent pacing issues emphasize the lack of direction in storytelling, which is just as thin in execution as it is in concept, with only so much to complain about, in terms of quantity, and only so much to praise as compensation for missteps that render the final product totally incapable of raising out of underwhelmingness. Still, for every plummet, the film rises, or at least about as much as it can, facing plenty of natural shortcomings to go with consequential shortcomings, but still pulling through enough to engage, or at least charm adequately.
Again, this film's story is paper-thin, and when it does find something to work with, it's usually familiar material, yet through all of the thinness and conventionalism is subject matter that is genuinely colorful, with themes and tones that boast potential for plenty of fleshed out resonance that is, of course, not delivered too much, but potent enough for the film to charm, in concept alone. In execution, the story concept's charm goes explored about as well as it can when being behind somewhat distancing and thin storytelling, with plenty of components to the film's color, one of which is, of all things, the film's locations, which really aren't all the lavish or even all that emphasized as attractive, but attractive nevertheless, with a certain color to it that fits this film's lighthearted tones and theme somewhat neatly. Even more charming is, of course, what relatively extensive characterization there is, for although turns in a thin script with plenty of exposition issues, Vanessa Taylor draws what story there is and characters with charisma and, to a certain degree, layers that augment your investment in the story's substance, though not quite as much as the realism within Taylor's characterization that helps in defining the effectiveness of this film as a slice-of-life character study, with themes that can be embraced both subjectively as relatable and objectively as reasonably engaging, and are complimented by other colorful touches in Taylor's script, including humor, to a certain extent. Really, the film isn't all that funny, doing so little to play up jokes or even deliver jokes that are all that memorable that it ultimately comes out as a bare minimum of comedy, but a comedy nevertheless, with humor that doesn't touch your funny bone too often, but charm thoroughly in their simplicity and wit as, well, to be frank, just so darn cute, not to an overbearing state, but to the state of complimented the lightness within this film's heart that is, of course, brought to life by director David Frankel, who doesn't give the film a whole lot of kick, or at least not as much as he should, but really powers the charm of this film with generally light storytelling. Of course, it's not like Frankel totally netures this film's subject matter, which does get to be pretty serious in quite a few areas, and when it comes time to explore this subject matter's more dramatic aspects, while Frankel falls flat in certain areas, his lightness that is never too light graces atmosphere with a kind of soft poignancy that doesn't thoroughly compel, but gives the film its touching occasions, which would be nothing were it not for this film's leads. Steve Carell isn't necessarily revelatory in this film, but his performance as Dr. Bernie Feld is quite distinct from his other performances, being charismatically subdued and highly convincing in its presentation of a seemingly distant yet genuinely concerned therapist who all but steals the show with sheer charm whenever Carell arrives, but really, this is Meryl Streep's and Tommy Lee Jones' show, and they, as you can imagine, remind you at every turn, having very little to work with, but proving to be very effective when material does present itself, with Tommy Lee Jones convincing as an unfomfortable, yet subtly and humanly layered, distant husband being dragged relationship rejuvenation with his wife that he will grow to embrace, while Meryl Streep leads reasonably strongly, with charm and even the occasional piece of emotional range, as the wife who fears for the future of a relationship that has defined much of her life. Streep and Jones engage by their own individual rights, while sharing static chemistry whose gradual evolution reflects this subject matter's tones and themes, and carries a film that is too thin for its own good, but keeps you going much more often than it loses you, boasting enough charm to be an enjoyable watch, even if it is a sometimes challenging watch.
When it's all said and done, a do-little story's thinness sparks exposition issues and is overemphasized by the occasional plot convention and soundtrack misusage, but mostly by uneven pacing that's at least consistent enough in slowness to slow down momentum all but to a crawl and make the final product underwhelming, though not to the point of mediocrity, as the film goes saved as, at the very least, very charming, with a colorful story concept that is executed in Vanessa Taylor's script with colorful characterization and realism, and cute humor that compliments David Frankel's lighthearted storytelling, whose thorough charm and degree of depth go brought to life by a colorful cast, headed by a convincing Steve Carell and the effective duo of Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones that does about as much as anything in making David Frankel's "Hope Springs" an enjoyable and somewhat thought-provoking study on aging relationships, even with a fair deal of faults.
2.5/5 - Fair
The routine of Arnold, a creature of plodding, was so unimaginative that I wanted, even as a guy, to jump and strangle him at moments - and there is not many movies which can initiate a wish like that - Tommy Lee Jones was a perfect man to cast for this role! The screenplay almost got me involved in the movie too much. I was surprised with the performance of Steve Carell as Dr. Feld - he really looked like a real counsellor who tried try to articulate couple's feelings, and revitalize their relationship bringing back the spark that caused them to fall in love in the first place. I could not see that ability to transform to any character in him before but I am glad that he had chance to act in a role which offers more than some sexually frustrated individual with problems fitting in a modern society. The portrayal of Kay by Meryl Streep was exceptional but done with such an easiness that I wondered if there was some personal experience in it which made such a performance possible.
I enjoyed it, I hope you will enjoy Hope Springs, too!