Hope Springs - DVD Review
Review by Rob Carnevale
AS great an actress as she continues to be, Meryl Streep doesn’t always choose great movies.
Hope Springs is proof of that. But then it also lured Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carell into the mix.
A supposed comedy that follows a devoted couple as they attempt to negotiate a stale period in their marriage with the help of a couple’s specialist, this is a tonally uneven, sex-fixated, awkward affair that ends up being difficult to recommend to anyone.
Kay (Streep) and Arnold (Jones) are the couple in question, whose marriage has come to be defined by Arnold’s passive indifference to Kay’s frustrated advances.
When she hears of a renowned couple’s specialist, Dr Bernard Feld (Carell), in the small town of Great Hope Springs, she attempts to persuade Arnold to get on a plane for a week of marriage therapy, prompting some soul-searching revelations about the nature of their relationship and expectation.
Directed by David Frankel (of Devil Wears Prada fame), Hope Springs isn’t without some positives. Early on, some of the issues raised are intelligent and, no doubt, relatable to couples of every age. While there is some nice interplay between Streep and Jones.
But the film’s insistence on trying to find comedy in placing Kay and Arnold in sexually compromising scenarios feels false and patronising, almost as if the key to a long and sustained relationship is the ability to be sexually adventurous – and that’s it.
Carell’s Dr Feld is particularly culpable in this department, apparently ignoring any of the psychological issues at play (attitudes, upbringing, reasons for why either Kay or Arnold went cold) in order to repeatedly set sexual tasks, the supposed comic highlight of which is seeing Streep attempt to perform felatio on Jones in a cinema.
In moderation, this could have worked. Instead, the film becomes fixated in its desperation to find laughs, and even tosses in the obligatory feel-good ending which feels hideously sentimental and overly contrived.
Vanessa Taylor’s screenplay subsequently ends up feeling patronising and sugar-coated and is particularly bad for repeatedly denying Jones, Streep and Carell (virtually redundant in terms of having his own story arc) anything meaningful to offer.
Hence, while Hope Springs looks good from its packaging, it’s a wasted opportunity that is neither dramatic enough to genuinely engage nor funny enough to make you laugh. It’s an awkward experience all round.
Running time: 100mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: February 25, 2013