Movie review – Dissecting suburban marriage

2012-10-27 16:42

Film: Hope Springs (Nu Metro)

Director: David Frankel

Featuring: Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, Steve Carell and Elisabeth Shue

Rating: 7/10

If, while you were waiting for life to happen, you’ve let the cobwebs accumulate around your marriage and your marriage bed, you might see Hope Springs as a self-help manual.

But unlike any self-help book I’ve never read, it’s presented with flawless acting, some hilarious situational comedy and a good few cringeworthy moments to keep you from getting too comfortable in your seat.

For those who don’t associate marriage beds with cobwebs, well, this is a cautionary tale.

Hope Springs is exquisitely held together by the rangeless Meryl Streep as Kay.

She and her husband, Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones), have been married for 30 years, with a routine that is more predictable than a Swiss watch.

They’ve moved into separate bedrooms and a peck on the cheek in the mornings is all the intimacy they have.

After yet another anniversary where Kay and Arnold treat each other to a new air conditioner, Kay decides to take action – and Arnold
will have to get in on the act or get left behind.

Enter Hope Springs, a town where Dr Feld (Steve Carell) runs his “marriage rejuvenation clinic”.

Kay and Arnold arrive. She is full of expectation, he full of scepticism.

What follows is the dissection and examination of a marriage that could be anyone’s – one that, to the uninitiated, looks like it is working, but which is in need of breaking to fix.

Scriptwriter Vanessa Taylor (best known for her TV series writing on the likes of Game of Thrones and Gideon’s Crossing) ensures that though there are plenty of cringeworthy moments as Kay and Arnold bare their souls, and saggy bits, this story never dribbles into sentiment or sinks
into vulgarity.

Though directed by David Frankel, who was at the helm of The Devil Wears Prada, this film is conducted by Streep.

She turns her thespian scalpel on a suburban wife and mother with seemingly nothing to distinguish her from a thousand others.

With surgical skill, she unearths her uniqueness while also making her the heroine of every?woman who may – or does – feel like she does.

Tommy Lee Jones channels his Men in Black character Agent K as the taciturn tax accountant Arnold, but he throws in a few curve balls from his youth as the shouty US marshal in The Fugitive.

He’s funny because his character is such an everyman, his face is like the road map of a well-lived life and he uses this extensive experience to make sure that the audience roots for his rather dull suburban Arnold.

This because he too could be your father, brother, neighbour or indeed tax accountant.

Carell also puts in a fine, understated performance as the therapist.

He is a man used to taking the lead, but when called upon to take a supporting role, as he is here, he does so admirably.

Elisabeth Shue passes through as a wise-cracking bartender and Jean Smart as Kay’s friend.

Hope Springs is an intelligent, funny and truthful film that is the perfect storm of talent and execution.

It could have been so awful. Instead, it is delightful.

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