Hope Springs (12A)
Ostensibly a comedy Hope Springs offers rather more than awkward laughs at the expense of middle-aged people everywhere.
It’s the tale of a bored older couple, married 30 years, for whom the fire has gone out of their relationship. Loving but no longer in love they drift through a life that lacks communication and shouts loneliness, even if they fail to admit it to one another.
Thus Kay (Meryl Streep) persuades grumpy hubby Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) to participate in a week-long counselling session run by Dr. Feld (Steve Carell). And this is where the heart of the film begins to beat as both people delve deep into their souls to re-engage with each other and themselves.
Of course any Hollywood film starring such heavyweights is going to balance its message with humour. Hope Springs manages to move beyond merely that. A scene with eager but hapless Kay attempting to give Arnold a thrill in a half-empty movie theatre is both hilarious and tragic. We see it everywhere: the older woman inappropriately dressed for her age; the older man failing to seduce younger members of the opposite sex.
Hope Springs via Vanessa Taylor’s script urges people to refuse to accept such societal rules. It takes a tough guy actor like Jones bring reality to such a theme – the once virile man who has lost his mojo and cannot admit it to himself, his wife or anyone else. Streep’s performance is clearer: she refuses to give up on reawakening her man, herself and her marriage.
Hollywood icons aside this is a tale of ordinary folk. It’s about secrets and lies, mini fantasies (and the occasional big one), shocking revelations and home truths. Director David (The Devil Wears Prada) Frankel opts for a cringe-worthy confessional placing Streep and Jones at opposite ends of a couch as Carell looks on.
Performances are as one would expect from such thoroughbreds. Streep and Jones enjoy great chemistry in a story that is poignant, funny and uplifting. A beautiful tearjerker, Hope Springs takes embarrassment to new levels and demands that people try just that little bit harder.