Think of a recent romantic drama. Whether it’s The Vow, Dear John, or something not starring Channing Tatum, what happens to the main characters some 30 years after that initial spark goes out? Hope Springs is the latest film from director David Frankel and takes a mature look at love and its aftermath. The patron saint of acting Meryl Streep and the equally formidable Tommy Lee Jones play a married couple who have lost the special ingredient that makes a relationship work. They sleep in different rooms, they barely touch each other and a new cable subscription is a 31-year anniversary present. Kay (Streep) finally decides enough is enough and drags Arnold (Jones) to a week-long intensive couples counseling retreat in Hope Springs. Headed by relationship expert Dr. Feld (Steve Carell), the couple begin to dig into the nature of their marriage and whether they can make it work again.
With past credits including The Devil Wears Prada and Marley & Me, Frankel doesn’t overly endear himself to you as a director. Hope Springs, however, is the exception. Oh yes, there’s the obvious soundtrack choices and the picturesque shots of the seaside community, but it’s the intimate and oh-so-awkward sex scenes where Frankel crafts moments that draw you into the plight of this seemingly beige couple. The best thing he does though is step back and let his actors act. With a cast like this, why the heck wouldn’t you? The therapy scenes – which make up a good portion of the movie – were unscripted and done in one take. It’s a bold choice but one that pays off as the skill of Jones, Streep and Carrell takes the wheel.
Much of Hope Springs success comes down to its Oscar-laden leads. Streep and Jones are two of the finest living actors and they don’t disappoint. Donning a she-mullet and florals, Streep is all bumbling uncertainty and girlish propriety. Yet it’s Jones who steals the film, which is saying something. It’s not often someone can outshine Streep, but he does. Initially playing off his grumpy man shtick, you cannot tear your eyes off Jones as he evolves as a character and adapts ticks, inflections and mannerisms to reflect his attitude reversal. Carell too is very impressive. It’s a restrained, straight-faced portrayal from him and he barely speaks over a whisper during the entire film.
Hope Springs is being promoted to remind audiences of another mature-aged romantic dramedy Meryl Streep starred in not too long ago: It’s Complicated. However, the film is less It’s Complicated and more In Treatment. It’s a series of conversations and situations about the idea of two people staying together, forever, delivered fearlessly by some of the classiest working actors. Hope Springs provides a mature, thoughtful and realistic look at love and is moving in ways you wouldn’t quite expect.
[rating=3] and a half
Maria Lewis - follow Maria on Twitter here: @moviemazz
Directed by: David Frankel
Written by: Vanessa Taylor
Starring: Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carell
Hope Springs was released on the 8th of August in the USA, the 23rd of August in Australia and the 14th of September in the U.K.