Hope Springs movie review

hope-springs-movie-poster

My Score: 80%

Last week, I reviewed the Hope Springs movie trailer (which was, admittedly, a weird thing to do), but this past weekend, we did the deed and actually saw the film.  Guess what?  The trailer and the movie don’t match.  And now that I stop and think about that lack of coherency between trailer and film, I realize that’s probably a good thing…

So now you’ve watched the trailer – looks like a light hearted romp, not quite It’s Complicated 2 (oh, please go ahead and watch the trailer for It’s Complicated as I’ll be referencing that film in part again later), but a comedy, at the very least – right?

WRONG.

Sure, there are some jokes in Hope Springs, but essentially, this is a dramatic film about two people trying to save their 30 year marriage after a total breakdown of intimacy on every level.  Seriously – people who ride the bus to work together touch each other more than Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones).  But the trailer is all sex jokes, record scratches and suggestions that we “keep our head up – o-oh!”

OK, I need to stop complaining about the trailer (which misrepresents this film in just about every way possible) and get to the movie, which is worth your time.

Meryl Streep is, as always, awesome.  Dr. Girlfriend doesn’t agree, but I feel that she’s pitching her voice up just a bit in this film.  It’s as though she’s created this character, who is more demure than Streep and speaks in a slightly higher tone than she would naturally.  There is great physicality to her performance, she’s always playing with her necklace or her eyes are darting around with nervous tension.  And there is a wonderful moment where she has the opportunity to tell us what she’s thinking just with her facial expressions in a scene where she wakes up in bed and seemingly breaks the fourth wall and looks right into the camera, looks right at us, and… wow, Streep is really, really good.  I knew this already, but every film of hers has a moment where she reminds me.  Like any great performer, she reminds you why she’s her, like a great slugger clubbing a monstrous home run and you sit there, watching and thinking, “Right.  Only he can do that.”  Streep is like that – only she can do what she does.  She’s the Babe Ruth of actresses.

While I wouldn’t say Streep is breaking any new ground for herself, I’ve never seen Tommy Lee Jones play this particular role.  Even in a film like No Country for Old Men, Jones doesn’t portray himself as a crotchety old man, he’s just sort of… I don’t know, exhausted from life.  Here, Jones’ Arnold is anything but exhausted and in fact, he talks a blue streak of angry complaints, ranting and raving but never really yelling.  It’s a fascinating performance and again, it’s one I’ve never seen him give.

Steve Carell can obviously play it straight – we’ve seen it in Little Miss Sunshine, but it’s always hard to get his portrayal of Michael from The Office separated from the actor, but believe me, there’s no problem with that here.  Carell is sympathetic, kind and charming as Dr. Bernie and it very much lent itself to the other performances, especially that of Jones.

Boy, it sure is overcast in this movie…  every day.  Everywhere they go.  Even when they’re in different states.  Just a minor complaint, but did they film this movie during some where’s rainy season?  I guess you could say the grayness was a motif that went along with the story, but I admit I felt a little distracted by it.

There’s this one scene during which Jones and Streep are in a fancy hotel room, sitting by the fire and the scene comes to a grinding halt – one purpose, by the way – but, honestly, the film makers completely failed to articulate to me what was happening in those few seconds.  Then, Streep has some dialogue that tells me what just happened.  This is, in my view, a classic, text book example of something you don’t want in  your film.  As anyone who’s ever taken any sort of writing class knows, it’s important to show your audience what is happening, not tell them.  And when you show something and then you have to explain it, you probably need to go back and rethink your choices.

Did the town have to be called “Hope Springs?”  The town and the people who lived there played little role in the film, so I don’t really see what the point was of including that glamor shot of the town’s welcome sign.  Like… I get it.  The movie is called Hope Springs, I understand the plot of the film… I get it.  Ow!  Stop beating me over the head with it!  For a movie that takes some chances (and it really does), that was an unusual choice.

And speaking of taking chances, wasn’t ending the film on a joke enough?  See, immediately after said joke, the roll another scene over the credits which is much more in line with the tone of the trailer.  It makes me wonder if some produce said, “Well, look – we tricked people into the theater with that trailer, so now we really need to give them the scene they want – the scene they expected.  True, it’s not part of the script, but let’s just slap something together.”  And then, I imagine after they bounced this off the director, he sighed and said, “Fine, but the scene has to be outside and it has to be an overcast day, and if it’s not, we’re CGI-ing that shit.”

Anyway,  I recommend you check out Hope Springs – it’s problems are minor and the performances are wonderful.  Ignore the trailer – this is a film of substance.

About Jamie Insalaco

Jamie Insalaco is the author of CreativeJamie.com, BomberBanter.com and editor in chief of ComicBookClog.com

Posted on September 18, 2012, in movie review and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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