December 2, 2012

Filthy Review - 'Hope Springs'

Hope Springs (2012)

Review by Jude Felton

As a movie fan, first and foremost, I try and mix up the type of films I watch. Of course, I watch a hell of a lot of horror movies, but believe me it is nice to mix in other genres and styles from time to time. Hope Springs is one such film that I had been looking forward to, for no other reason than it stars the heavyweight pairing of Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones. As you might expect from these two, the film delivers on the comedy side, the romantic side and the hide behind your hands because its making me cringe side.

Kay and Arnold (Streep and Jones) are a happily married couple, happily married for over 30 years that is. Maybe I should rephrase that; they have been married for over 30 years and are kind of happy, in their own way, expect for the fact that their lives have fallen into the same repetitive routine, day after day. This suits Arnold just fine, thank you very much, but Kay wants something more; she feels unloved and quite frankly she is bored.

With this in mind she looks to an intense couples counseling course that is run in Maine, by Dr. Feld (Steve Carrell). Arnold wants nothing to do with it, and tells Kay she can go by herself. If that did happen it would not make for a very entertaining film, so it is no surprise to learn that Arnold does indeed go with his wife, even though he really doesn’t want to.

Hope Springs is bloody funny; plain and simple. Tommy Lee Jones is absolutely hilarious, Arnold being a grumpy and none-too-subtle character, with just about every line he delivers being an absolute hoot. Countering this is Streep’s Kay, who is far more delicate, although still a very impassioned and frustrated woman, who still manages to get the laughs, albeit it in a more subtle manner.

Steve Carrell’s Dr. Feld is a more restrained character than we are maybe used to seeing from him. He’s still funny, although the humor might not be as immediate, and he seems happy to let the laughs come from his esteemed acting colleagues. It’s a good performance; just don’t go expecting belly laughs from him, this time out. One question I did have is, whatever happened to Elizabeth Shue? She pops up for one scene in Hope Springs, and then is gone.

There is a heavy focus on humor and laughs in Hope Springs, but it does deal with a very real and serious issue, on how couples stay together and keep the excitement in their lives after such a long time. As such, I think the film is definitely going to appeal to the older audience rather than a bunch of teenagers, and why the hell not. It’s great to see an adult comedy /drama that is full of life and passion. As you might notice, I liked this film a lot, but then I could watch Tommy Lee Jones reading a menu out loud. It’s not often you’ll see Meryl Streep play second fiddle to anyone, but here Jones really does steal the show, for me anyway.

Director David Frankel has done a good job here of keeping the drama on just the right side of not making the film too melodramatic and cheesy. He blends the humor and drama just right, and it is only towards the very latter stages where I felt it almost bordered on the heavy-handed. Fortunately he reels it in, and keeps it incredibly entertaining.

Included on the DVD version that I watched is a gag reel, which was very funny, a featurette entitled Inside the Perfect Marriage, with Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones, and an audio commentary from David Frankel. All-in-all very good stuff indeed.

If you aren’t a fan of adult romantic comedies, with the focus on two greats in their 60s, you probably aren’t going to want to see this. However, if you want to watch a touching drama with some absolute comedy gold then you may well want to check this out. I thought it was fantastic.

Hope Springs is released on Blu-ray and DVD on December 4th from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment.

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