Dir: David Frankel
Stars: Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, Steve Carell
David Frankel already has an impressive record behind the camera with Marley & Me and The Devil Wears Prada on his relatively brief film CV. Most directors tackling this kind of subject matter would find themselves with a rather uneven and messy end product. However, he seems to have a happy knack of finding the magic balance drama and comedy; knowing how to tug gently at your heartstrings. Hope Springs, which is essentially the story of a middle-aged couple going to marriage counselling, could have easily descended into melodrama or farce. Frankel manages to keep it on an even keel with the help of some great acting and a tight script.
Kay and Arnold (Streep & Jones-yes I laughed at the Kay/K thing) have been “happily” married for over 30 years now, but Kay has started to think that there is something missing from their relationship. After reading Doctor Feld’s (Carell) self-help book, she decides to check them in to an intensive week-long course of couples therapy. To put it mildly, her “salary man” husband is more than a little sceptical of the whole thing.
On paper, Hope Springs could have been a complete snoozefest aimed at middle-aged women with more than a little interest in the subject matter. At times it does feel like you’re watching your parents talking about sex, but when you get over that, you’ll find yourself watching a rather lovely and sweet little film.
Indeed, what makes Hope Springs a film that people should go and see is the incredible acting talent on screen. Streep has spent her entire career producing immaculate caricatures and Kay is no different. However, Tommy Lee Jones steals just about every scene he’s in. He is such a joy to watch on screen. His range of facial expressions and clever use of body language is a real tour de force. In fact, both leads make you forget that they are merely actors playing a role. They have a chemistry between them which makes the film entirely believable, and a decency and warmth which impels you to root for their marriage. Whilst clearly in his comfort zone, Carell is pitch-perfect in his role as mediator and catalyst.
They are working with Vanessa Taylor’s cleverly-written script; which is at the same time completely believable and also incredibly tender and moving. The humour is often subtle, as is the heartbreak; thankfully avoiding Hollywood clichés. These are issues which effect a lot of people, but are hardly ever talked about.
Hope Springs left me with a tear in my eye and a warm fuzzy feeling inside.