Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Hope Springs (2012) - Movie Review

Okay, remember how I just said in my Total Recall review how August is a lame month for movies?  Well, it still is.  In fact, I call this month "Junior Varsity for movies", but sometimes movies come out that surprise you.  August will have some sleepers, and Hope Springs is one of them.

It's a very basic story.  Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) have been married for 31 years, and are going through the motions.  Kay cooks same breakfast every morning, he heads to work, and then comes home to dinner and watch golf until he falls asleep.  While Arnold is just fine with the status quo, Kay is concerned that things are headed in the wrong direction.  The magic is gone, and they've been sleeping in separate bedrooms for years.  Kay books a counselling session from Dr. Feld (Steve Carell) to try and repair the relationship.  Arnold reluctantly comes along, complaining all the way.

Once again, you have a movie where I feel like the trailer kind of misrepresents the movie.  While this is actually a dramedy, the movie is fortunately free of humor taken from silly or obvious jokes.  Nobody falls down for a laugh and there aren't any lame sex jokes or anything like that.  Sometimes the humor comes from just a simple look, or watching Tommy Lee Jones struggle through his frustration at the situation.  While you think the presence of someone like Steve Carell would signal a comedic role, he plays the role with a serious and calm demeanor.  You actually buy that he's this successful couple's therapist.  If he had spent the movie saying uncomfortable or inappropriate things, basically playing Michael Scott, the movie wouldn't have worked.

Despite the huge names playing the roles, you quickly forget who you're watching and actually believe that these two are a couple that's been together for decades.  There's nothing left to be said about Meryl Streep.  She's simply the best.  Tommy Lee Jones impressed me the most here.  He has such a surprising vulnerability, and you can see it with every close up of his face.  So much is said without saying anything.  I felt like I was watching a master class in acting.

After a while, you get this weird feeling like you're watching your parents or grandparents.  I'll have to warn you, there are some moments in the film where it might feel a little 'icky', like I would imagine how you'd feel if you caught your parents or grandparents going at it.  It's all relative though.  For some of you this won't be an issue it all, but younger audiences might get that feeling.  At the same time, I think the familiar feeling you get watching them is what makes this work.

Hope Springs was written by Vanessa Taylor, who's mainly written TV up to this point (including some episodes of Game of Thrones).  Her screenplay doesn't have any surprises, but the dialog and situations felt natural.  Joined with director David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada, Marley & Me), they brought a movie that felt real and honest.  Honestly though, with these two actors, did he really have to do much more than just say 'action' and 'cut'?

Hope Springs is a nice change of pace from your typical Summer film.  If you like watching two great actors show a softer side, it's worth watching simply for the performances.  At it's heart, it's a sweet film about a couple rekindling their romance and remembering why they are in love.  I was pleasantly surprised by this and I think it makes for a nice date movie.

3.5 (out of 5) Death Stars

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