Eternal flame – Hope Springs review

Hope Springs – Starring Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, and Steve Carell. Directed by David Frankel. Rated M. By Richard Haridy.

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Don’t be fooled by the promotional material; Hope Springs is not a comedy. It’s actually something much more interesting: an adult drama dealing with adult issues in a minimalist way. Unlike the cloying contrivances of Something’s Gotta Give and It’s Complicated, Hope Springs is audacious in its commitment to subtle authenticity, never artificially upping the dramatic stakes but instead staying true to its small yet relatable story.

Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones play Kay and Arnold, a married couple on the eve of their 31st wedding anniversary. Kay and Arnold seem to live their lives on autopilot, floating through a daily routine entirely disconnected from one another, even sleeping in separate rooms. Kay’s dissatisfaction with her husband’s lack of intimacy leads her to drag him to a coastal resort town and a series of therapy sessions with relationship counsellor Dr. Feld (a remarkably low-key Steve Carrell).

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The rest of the picture follows this couple as they try to re-integrate an intimacy into their relationship that was lost many years ago. It’s most impressive to see a Hollywood feature deal so candidly with the sexual ups and downs of a couple in their 60s. Both Streep and Jones are magnificent, with Streep in particular giving her best performance in years, infusing Kay with a sweetness that is just charming and avoiding the histrionic caricature that has filled her recent work.

Hope Springs isn’t perfect. A defiant contention to keep its story small makes its pleasures occasionally too subtle, and director David Frankel‘s musical choices are nauseating at best – putting Al Green’s Let’s Stay Together over their lovemaking attempts and then dropping Lenny Kravitz’s It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over near the conclusion ought to send Frankel directly to movie jail for a year –  but the flaws are minor in what ultimately is an honest story. In our current climate of big, loud, inane mainstream product, Hope Springs is a fascinating anomaly. While exploring the sexual problems of a middle-aged couple, it wilfully refuses to spice itself up with dramatic fireworks. Hope Springs is a breath of fresh air.

3.5/5

Hope Springs is available on DVD and Blu-ray from December 21, 2012.

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