Thursday, September 6, 2012

Hope Springs

Tommy Lee Jones, Meryl Streep, and Steve Carrell in Hope Springs
**1/2 out of ****

Is Hope Springs a movie that irresponsibly gives people in tired old relationships false hope? I don't want to speak ill of a movie for being positive, but I feel like this is a film that puts a shiny gloss finish on subject material that demands more truth than classic cinematic crowd-pleasing tactics. 

Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep play a couple who have wound up visiting a small coastal town called Hope Springs, for intensive marriage counseling sessions. This is from her insistence and very much to his dismay. Steve Carrell plays their counselor who knows how to ask all the necessary uncomfortable questions in a perfectly professional and relaxed tone.

It is directed by David Frankel, who made the formulaic yet fun, The Devil Wears Prada. Here, he directs Streep again in a dramatically different role (Isn't it always?) which is heartbreaking because she's so incredibly sweet and just wants to feel loved again by her husband. Jones is maybe even more impressive as a husband of repressed emotions who has always assumed he has done a satisfactory job at doing everything technically required in a marriage. His bombardment of this therapy retreat brings out anger and frustration that transitions into complex guilt. If there is something very potent in Jones' work here, it is how he so accurately represents so many people who are afraid of therapy.

The real shame here, is that this is one of those movies where the cast seems much stronger than the material given to them. The process of the experience the characters go through has it's drama but plays it safe. Some may disagree because the subject of sexuality involving older couples may seem unappealing to a mainstream audience. It goes to the limit I would expect, which is what I can say about most of this movie. I think people will find something to connect to in this movie's subject but I don't think it has many interesting revelations and I am also annoyed by the convenience of it's happy ending. 

I don't need this movie to have a happy ending or a downer ending. I'm not interested in resolutions here. I want a movie about the complexity of long-lasting relationships and the challenge of connection. Hope Springs may be about that very thing, but not enough.

Check out Roger Ebert's Review.

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