Hope Springs (2012)
Director: David Frankel
Cast: Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, Steve Carell
Plot: After thirty years of marriage, a middle-aged couple attends an intense, week-long counseling session to work on their relationship.
Genre: Comedy / Drama / Romance
Awards: Nom. for 1 Golden Globe - Best Leading Actress (Comedy/Musical)
Rating: NC16 for mature thematic content involving sexuality.
IN RETROSPECT (Spoilers: NO)
“He is everything. But I'm... I'm really lonely. And to be with someone, when you're not really with him can... it's... I think I might be less lonely... alone.”
You can't go anywhere wrong with Meryl Streep. She has not lost her mojo, as evident in her recent Oscar win for The Iron Lady (2011). Pair her up with another veteran Oscar-winning actor by the name of Tommy Lee Jones and you must surely believe that their latest film will work.
David Frankel, who last worked with Streep in The Devil Wears Prada (2006), directs this low-key drama about marriage, intimacy, and yes, sex. Or rather the lack of it.
You see, Kay and Arnold, played by the abovementioned two leads, are having a problem with their marriage. Well, they are a loving couple and all, just that their relationship has become stagnant over the years. Kay makes breakfast every day for Arnold. Arnold goes to work. He comes back, watches instructional golf, and then plops right into bed... his own bed.
This is where Steve Carell comes in, as a therapist of sorts to help restore intimacy into the couple's life again. Carell's role as Dr. Feld is a curious one. He is like a silent owl who listens to intimacy problems, struggling to contain a wry smile that may explode into a grin anytime. He is not a source of comedic material, but an instigator of future comedic situations.
These comedic situations range from the mildly awkward like Streep's character trying to caress her partner, to some (failed) attempt at explicit movements in a dark, public arena. This is a film that is frank about sex as integral to a properly functioning marriage.
The acting by the veterans is solid and their chemistry quite excellent. What lets the film down is its screenplay, which can be both instructive or mundane depending on how you look at it. Hope Springs will appeal to married couples more than the average person on the street who is still single.
Still, there are severe pacing problems that plague the film. It is a slow film, with too many pauses where the performers stare at either blank spaces or each other's seemingly blank face.
Despite touching on a topic with the potential to excite, Frankel's film is more or less a monotonous look at what it is like to be and feel young again. The reconciliatory epilogue injects some energy to the film, but Frankel leaves it a little too late to perk the audience up.
Irony of ironies, Hope Springs is like a stagnant marriage with a lack of spice. Can someone add a little more zest, please?
GRADE: C+ (6.5/10 or 3 stars)
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