Quiet 'Hope Springs' has real punch
By Christy Lemire, Associated PressHere's how surprisingly effective “Hope Spring” is: It will make you want to go home and have sex with your spouse afterward. Or at least share a longer hug or a more passionate kiss.
January 4, 2013, 3:33 pm TWN
You don't have to be married for 31 years like the stuck-in-a-rut couple Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones play to feel inspired by the film's message about the importance of keeping your relationship alive. It sounds like a cliché because it is a cliché, and more: It's a cottage industry, one that's launched countless afternoon talk show episodes and shelf after shelf of self-help books.
And yet, despite television ads that look alternately wacky and mawkish and suggest pat, glossy superficiality, “Hope Springs” unearths some quiet and often uncomfortable truths. The first produced script from television writer and producer Vanessa Taylor (“Alias,” “Game of Thrones”) explores the complicated dynamics that develop over a long-term relationship with great honesty and little judgment. What looks like a standard rom-com turns into something akin to a contemporary Ingmar Bergman film.
The performances from Streep and Jones go a long way toward elevating the rather straightforward direction from David Frankel, which includes some painfully literal musical selections and a few hokey comic situations. Frankel also directed Streep in her withering, Oscar-nominated performance in “The Devil Wears Prada.” But stylish magazine editor Miranda Priestly wouldn't be caught dead in the sensible ensembles that Streep's character here, Kay, wears and sells at a mall chain store for middle-aged women. Her wardrobe is one of many ways “Hope Springs” depicts a safe, suburban Midwestern life vividly and without an ounce of mocking.
Kay and her husband, Arnold, live in a comfortable home in Omaha, Nebraska. Their children have grown up and moved out, leaving them to settle into a drab routine. She cooks him bacon and a couple of fried eggs every morning, which he eats at the kitchen table while reading the newspaper. A quick kiss on the cheek and Arnold is off to work at an accounting firm where he's one of the partners. When he comes home at night, some sort of meat-and-potatoes dinner is waiting for him. Afterward, she cleans up while he dozes off in the recliner watching The Golf Channel. Then they head upstairs to go to sleep — in their separate bedrooms.
And it's been this way for years.