Wednesday, 22 August 2012
FILM REVIEW: HOPE SPRINGS
Akin to watching your parents not only talk about sex but attempt to 'get it on', David Frankel's Hope Springs, penned by Vanessa Taylor, is an awkward viewing experience. It is also, in spite of its unimpressive rom-com trailer, a warmly enjoyable drama (with comic moments) about attempting to rediscover that romantic spark in a long-term relationship.
Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) have been married 31 years. Their two kids have grown and flown the nest, and Kay thought this turn of events may have precipitated a return to both romantic and, yes, sexual, intimacy between the couple. But Arnold, who has been sleeping in the spare room for a few years following a back complaint, hasn't seen any reason to shake-up their situation.
Arnold goes off to the office every morning, after being served coffee, eggs and bacon by Kay as he reads the paper, while Kay is left alone and unfulfilled. Arnold's in a pattern, Kay's in a rut, and it's make or break time. Sick of watching her husband doze off while watching the golf channel of an evening, Kay books two flights and a week-long therapy session in Great Hope Springs with the aim of restoring the intimacy to their relationship.
Given that the doctor facilitating these in-depth counselling sessions, Feld, is played by Steve Carell, you might think they are a laugh-riot. But no. There are moments of humour but they arise from Kay and Arnold's unease when discussing their sex lives. Carell is playing it straight; Streep and Jones are on show here, and they deliver.
Awkward, reticent and, in Arnold's case, not at all happy to be there, the pair squirms and blushes their way through the sessions which are by turns amusing and emotionally honest. It requires a stronger director than Frankel to keep Streep's little ticks in check (she can roll her eyes one too many times for my liking), but while the role of devoted yet neglected housewife is not a stretch for the actress, she excels just the same.
And Jones, with his craggy features and thankfully more engaged than he was in Men In Black III, makes for a complicated study in manhood. We may never get to the real source of Arnold's intimacy problems - generational? psychological? physical? - but Jones manages to make the gruff husband empathetic.
But not everything is resolved between Kay and Arnold when they depart Great Hope Springs; returning to separate bedrooms, and seemingly separate lives. And when Annie Lennox's Why starts playing late in the film, I had hoped Frankel would have the balls to end the film with the song's final line: You don't know what I feel. Cut to black. The End.
Sadly that's not the case, and Hope Springs ends with a happy postscript. Before then though, it's an enjoyable and refreshingly honest look at marriage which should hit harder, and closer to home, for those in the same demographic as Kay and Arnold.