Not to be mistaken for that one BBC show from 2009 that no one remembers, except maybe from the nut who would actually mistaken this film for the show in question, though I can kind of understand your confusion, because as "The Office" will tell you, Steve Carell has experience in showing up in American takes on British stuff. No, now that I think about it, you should still know better than to typecast Steve Carell with this film, as he is so surprisingly subdued in this film that it's pretty obvious that they were considering Philip Seymour Hoffman for this film's therapist role. The filmmakers must have known that "The Master" was on its way and didn't want to have people watching this film expecting Hoffman to end up messing with our lead couple's minds until they joined his crazy cult, which is why they got Carell, who... apparently makes for a great therapist. Thank goodness Carell sells his role, because I can't help but think of his over-the-top character from "The Office" when I see him in a suit, but hey, at least he's not quite as offputting of a casting choice as Tommy Lee Jones as Meryl Streep's wfie, because although Streep isn't quite a "spring" chicken (Get it?), she still looks better than me, so she could probably get someone better than Tommy Lee Jones. Well, in all fairness, her other options included Jeff Bridges and James Gandolfini, neither of whom are much of an improvement, so Streep may as well have gone with someone within her age range. I can see quite a few people seeing that comment and getting shocked to find that Jones and Streep are within the same age range, because Streep really does look pretty good to be in her 120s, or however old T.L. Jones is (Too old to be called T.L., I reckon). I kid, but David Frankel really does fit as this film's director, seeing as how he, thanks to "Marley & Me", knows how to create fine chemistry between someone and his or her dog, and that really adds to this film's charm, which is already pretty high enough, though not so much so that things really "spring" out at you (Just when you thought this opener couldn't get any worse), because as charming as this film is, Frankel's last film was literally about bird watching, and that's all that needs to be said if you're wondering how much less exciting this film is than it would have been if it was about, well, Philip Seymour Hoffman enticing old people into a cult.
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