Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Review: Hope Springs

If you think that Hope Springs is an 'icky' movie about old people wanting to have sex again then you are absolutely wrong. Hope Springs paints a moving picture of how time tests relationships and even if it focuses on an older couple, the message is universal and will definitely strike a chord to anyone regardless of age.

Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) have been married for thirty one years but Kay is not happy anymore and wants a 'real' marriage. Despite Arnold's reluctance, Kay manages to get them into Dr. Feld's (Steve Carell) week-long intensive marriage seminar in a small town in Maine. In the course of the week, the couple learns more about themselves and the state of their marriage.

Hope Springs is marketed as a comedy but the movie never goes for cheap laughs and the humor is subtle and graceful. One would think that when the couple arrives in Maine and goes into counseling, they would face several hijinks to dig into some laughs but the movie does not go to that direction. For example, when Kay tries to do a 'dirty deed' to Arnold in the theater, I thought they would get caught but they didn't and while the scene started funny as the attempt to do it was so awkward it ended up on a strong emotional note that tells a lot about the issues the couple have.

Hope Springs is such a strong movie because it is well-observed and direct to the point. It is an intimate film that carefully dissects the issues that led the couple in that state of their marriage. There are no major dramas or dark secrets behind the fragile situation they are in but just a couple of small unspoken issues that bore a hole which got bigger and bigger over time without them realizing it. It also commendable how the film resolved the conflict in a realistic way, there's no magic moment where everything is going to be better in an instant. It suggests that resolving issues takes time and effort from both sides.

The performances of the leads are impressive as Streep nails the role of a wife who is unhappy but is clueless on what went wrong. Jones brings in his usual grumpy old man shtick but this time the character he is playing has issues thst he does not want to acknowledge and Jones was so effective in showcasing the emotion of a man who has become a “ghost' without him realizing it. Meanwhile, Carell plays it straight all throughout the movie and he's a believable therapist.

At its core, the movie is so simple yet the issues it is discussing is so complex but handled so elegantly. Hope Springs is a smart film for adults that does not pander to conventional movie making and effectively sends it message across.

Rating: 10/10

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