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Hope Springs - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Hope Springs
Directing: B
Acting: A-
Writing: B-
Cinematography: B
Editing: B

Is Meryl Streep the exception to the rule or the exception that proves the rule? This woman is 63 years old and has had consistent work in amazingly age-appropriate roles for the past decade, most of which has garnered her Oscar nominations. Did someone forget to give her the Hollywood memo? I think more likely she's choosing to ignore it. More "aging actresses" would do well to follow her lead.

Streep is as good as ever in Hope Springs, but unfortunately for her, she's raised the bar so high that being merely excellent isn't as impressive for her anymore. For once she has no accents or prosthetics; this is an unusually naked part for her. It almost makes her hard to notice.

It's Tommy Lee Jones who surprises the most. As Arnold, the stubborn husband to Streep's Kay, who is dissatisfied with their stale marriage of 31 years, Jones proves nuanced in a way he's rarely, if ever, seen. He's perfectly understated and eminently believable. Arnold is a good man but he's one half of a couple who have simply learned over the years merely to exist together rather than being in an active relationship. Probably just about anyone could see a family member of their own in this guy.

Kay takes control for once in her life and sort of emotionally strong-arms Arnold into flying to Maine for an "intensive couples counseling" program with one Dr. Feld, uncharacteristically played by Steve Carell as a guy who actually has his shit together. Carell is usually playing guys who are either in arrested development of some sort or out of their depth in some way. Neither applies to Dr. Feld, who exists only as a mirror to Arnold and Kay's marriage, pretty much helping them every step of the way. It's an impressive departure for Carell.

These three leads are impeccably cast. Very little is done wrong in this movie -- except, maybe, for certain elements of the script. Or perhaps the very concept itself. This is a rare movie about older people who are the focus of the story and multi-dimensional. Jones and Streep give their characters a certain fascination -- certainly sympathy. For much of the story one thinks they could serve as a warning to young people who want to be married to one person for the rest of their lives.

But there's the clincher: inevitably predictable ending as it has, is the story of the struggles of a listless marriage of three decades really that interesting? You know, I'm not sure it is. Streep and Jones are always worth watching, but I would have liked a story a tad more compelling. This is a bit of a double-edged sword, because this depiction of a longtime marriage feels almost frighteningly real. And yet, there's not a whole lot in the way of drama. And isn't that kind of what we go to the movies for? To leave the tedium of regular daily life behind? I'm not asking for melodrama per se, but something a little more gripping than this would still have been nice.

The plot trajectory itself holds little in the way of surprise. The surprise, really, is that this story got made into a movie to begin with. It's a love story about a couple who had their honeymoon 31 years ago. There's a certain nobility in the telling of such a story, as Hollywood has always been obsessed with love stories as the beginnings of relationships, or tear jerkers about the ends of relationships. This is about the stumbling about in the middle of a relationship, far into it.

I believe a great movie really could be made about such a thing. Hope Springs just isn't it. This one is merely good. But I do hope someone tries again.

Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones rekindle a stale marriage in HOPE SPRINGS.

Overall: B
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