SEE Hope Springs, the poignant look at love and romance in your later years from director David Frankel. Rarely will you see a more honest and uncompromising look at what the bond of marriage really looks like than the director and the stars give you in this film.
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The couple central to this film are Arnold and Kay (Tommy Lee Jones, Meryl Streep). They are your prototype empty-nesters. The kids are grown and moved on, and the passion that may have once fueled this couple has long since gone as well. They sleep in separate rooms and their daily routines have taken on the solemn pallor of ritual. Kay, however, decides she wants to try to rediscover the Arnold and Kay who fell in love all those years ago and goads a reluctant Arnold into attending a marriage therapy weekend in Maine run by the reknowned Dr. Feld (Steve Carrell).
The journey of revelation and discovery that follows comprises the entire storyline of this picture. Hope Springs insists you be patient because, like therapy itself, really getting to know two people takes time and investment. Also like therapy, the process can get uncomfortable, and Frankel repeatedly forces you to watch as Arnold and Kay reluctantly disclose their most personal interractions and thoughts.
Streep and Jones
While the script delivers believable dialogue, the transformation from words on a page to movie magic is solely and exclusively in the hands of the two leads, and they are both outstanding. Meryl Streep’s Kay is superficially the long-suffering wife, until we begin to get bits and pieces of the story telling us how they got to the point where we meet them. In the hands of a master like Streep, we are able to empathize with Kay’s plight while readily forgiving her flaws and mistakes. Tommy Lee Jones is even better as curmudgeonly Arnold. Jones captures all of the film’s few laughs and creates moving emotional moments without ever crossing the line into melodrama. Steve Carrell is appropriately detached but still compassionate as Dr. Feld, and doesn’t try to do too much with the role which would have detracted from Arnold and Kay’s story.
Hope Springs was marketed as a comedy drama, but I would really describe it as a light drama with a few funny moments. The emphasis here is on letting Streep and Jones create a realistic look at an aging married couple and on that count, this film absolutely nails it.
ALSO ON DVD
SKIP The Dark Knight Rises, the final installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. I have to admit, I can’t stand Nolan’s storytelling style, and this film left me as nonplussed as every other film he’s made save The Dark Knight. Fancy gadgets and explosions outshine the mundane plot, and even Hans Zimmer’s score intrudes on the story, getting mixed in so loud that it drowns out the dialogue at points. It doesn’t help that Nolan is COMPLETELY humorless, and what ought to be campy and fun (Hey! Batman! Cool!) instead is presented with all the seriousness of Schindler’s List. If you thought Inception was genius, you’ll probably get what you came for out of The Dark Knight Rises, but an interminable and ridiculous 2:44 run time and an atonal, hackneyed ending left me thankful that he’s not going to make another one of these.
YOUR CALL on The Odd Life of Timothy Green, the story of a boy (CJ Adams) who grew in his parents’ (Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton) garden. Although the premise is highly original, this is ultimately a very familiar albeit sweet and heartwarming story about a fantasy character who changes the lives of the people around him. There are also some rather unsubtle messages about friendship, family and parenthood, and while this would make for fine family viewing, there is not a whole lot here you won’t have seen before.
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