Thursday, August 9, 2012

Streep and Jones Knock It Out of the Park: Our Review of "Hope Springs" (2012)

Directed By: David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada)
Starring: Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, Steve Carell

Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic content including sexuality

Run Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Synopsis: Nebraska couple Kay and Arnold Soamse (Streep and Jones) have been married for 31 years, but Kay has become increasingly unhappy with their relationship. So Kay pays for a week-long intensive couples therapy session with Dr. Bernard Feld (Carell) in Maine, and Arnold begrudgingly goes along. Will Dr. Feld's aggressive style of therapy bring them back together or finally be the breaking point Kay needs to leave?


Andrew: Hello readers! Sarah and I just got back from the local cinema where we saw the first of this week’s new releases – Hope Springs, starring Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carell. It’s directed by David Frankel, who previously directed Streep in the 2006 hit The Devil Wears Prada, and also directed Marley & Me.

Now Sarah, we haven’t had a chance to preview Hope Springs yet because it came out on a Wednesday and our weekly preview won’t be until tomorrow. But it’s safe to say this is one we’ve been looking forward to seeing for a bit now. Now that we’ve seen it, what did you think?
Sarah: I was actually impressed!

A: Were you expecting to not be?

S: I was not expecting to be impressed, no. I was expecting it to be a little like It’s Complicated, where Streep plays a strong woman who is just in a stagnant relationship and is trying to get her marriage back on track. But I actually found Streep’s Kay to not be like any other character we’ve seen her play before.

A: I agree.

S: She plays this sort of…weak and timid woman, which is not Meryl Streep as we know her AT ALL. And she did a fantastic job with it! It was actually a little jarring to see her in this role. So I was impressed!

Tommy Lee Jones I felt played your normal Tommy Lee Jones character. He’s this grumpy, old curmudgeon, but he still did a great job. I felt the cast as a whole did a great job. What did you think?
A: Well my immediate thought is to warn you, readers, to not go into this movie expecting it to be a laugh-a-minute film or even primarily be a comedy. It has been marketed a little deceptively. This is more of a straight drama than it is a comedy. Yes it has funny bits and funny deliveries by the actors involved, but this is more of a quiet, slow burn, kind of introspective film into this couple’s relationship and the deep-rooted problems they have.

Do not go in to Hope Springs expecting a pure comedy. The therapy scenes, like this one, can be quite uncomfortable and realistic. A testament to the actors and the filmmaker.
S: And problems I’m sure a lot of couples have, too. You get to a point in your life when big events stop happening naturally so you have to kind of look for where those events can come from next.

And yeah, this is not by any means a Steve Carell highlighted movie.

A: No it is a not. He takes a back seat to the other two.

S: He’s not funny in this movie. And you know, we’ve seen him in roles where he’s almost more of a depressed character like Dan in Real Life or Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, a character who isn’t happy with his life at all and that’s not the sort of non-comedic role he plays here. Carell is really, really good as a therapist.

A: It’s a fine turn by him playing the straight man. It’s interesting to see him do it like it’s interesting to see Jim Carrey, Robin Williams or Adam Sandler play a straight non-comedic role. I think Carell did a great job.

But going back to this being more of a drama, I felt like these were two knockout performances by the lead actors. Streep you hit exactly on the head. This is a role unlike anything else I’ve personally seen her in. I can’t think of another role where she looked so…

S: I would say the closest I’ve seen her to this was in Out of Africa, but even then she’s more of a strong woman. So yeah, she’s real timid here.

A: There’s a word I’m trying to think of because there were a lot of great scenes, the therapy scenes are FANTASTIC…because they are shot in a way where you genuinely get the feeling that there’s a chasm between the married couple. From the way they sit on the couch to the way the lighting is set up. But there’s turmoil in her eyes a lot here…

S: She’s SO frustrated with her husband…

A: Yes, and it’s the small facial things Streep does that made me really appreciate her performance. Whether it was a smile where she bites her bottom lip because she’s giddy about a concept, or when you see the sadness and frustration come over her and she can’t take it anymore.

Tommy Lee Jones does a great job, too, because I think his character, Arnold, has the bigger character of the two in the film. In the beginning of the film he’s not likeable at all. It’s not that he doesn’t love his wife anymore, it’s not that they don’t love each other, but it’s more like Kay says at one point that they’re just a pair of roommates who live in the same house and that’s it.

Maybe not even that in the beginning. Early on Jones’ Arnold doesn’t even acknowledge her. He’s flat out rude.

S: Well because it’s become such a routine for each of them. They’ve become each other’s habit where they just don’t appreciate each other anymore.

Early scenes like this breakfast scene give the viewers a great idea of where Kay and Arnold's marriage is. Even the imagery here of her always standing so far away in the kitchen is a perfect example.
A: But it’s not even that at first. She makes him breakfast, he reads the newspaper while he eats and they don’t talk at all. He falls asleep in the chair watching golf shows, she wakes him up so they can go to bed, and then they go to separate bedrooms and he doesn’t even look at her when he says goodnight. Stuff like that. It’s not even that he doesn’t love her anymore, it’s just that that’s the way it is and it’s heartbreaking to watch.

S: Yeah, and like they say in the movie, they’ve just turned it off.

A: Absolutely. And because of that I think he has the biggest character arc because you see him not want to go to counseling, he fights it, then embraces it, has a relapse, etc. I truly think both Streep and Jones do fantastic jobs. I honestly think Streep did a better job here than she did in The Devil Wears Prada.

S: True, because when you see her something like The Devil Wears Prada she’s a strong character and she’s GOOD in that role. We saw it in The Iron Lady earlier this year…

A: You know what, I’m going to go ahead and say it. A.) I didn’t think she should have won the Oscar over Viola Davis in the first place, but B.) I think she does a better job in this movie than she did in The Iron Lady.

S: I think it was more of a stretch for her to play a character like this…

A: Exactly.

S: So in that case yeah, I’ll agree with you there. Because in The Iron Lady she plays…

A: She plays Meryl Streep playing Margaret Thatcher.

S: And in Julie & Julia she plays Merly Streep playing Julia Childs. It’s not that she doesn’t completely BECOME those characters, but it’s that we look at her and SEE Meryl Streep playing those characters. This was something totally different.

Definitely a powerhouse performance by both of the leading actors, and a solid turn by Carell in a supporting role.

A: It’s a strong script by Vanessa Taylor, who is a writer/co-executive producer of Game of Thrones, it all feels very natural…

S: It’s very uncomfortable at times.

A: And I loved that. I loved that it pushed it to a point sometimes where we either felt uncomfortable, or we felt sad or happy for Kay and Arnold when they had a breakthrough or a relapse…they did a great job making us connect with the main characters.

S: Yes. And I’m so glad that we finally…we’ve had a run of disappointing movies here since The Dark Knight Rises came out. And I’m glad that we’re starting to pick up again. We have another funny movie coming out this weekend with The Campaign and what looks like a solid action film in The Bourne Legacy

So it hopes to be a good weekend for the movies again and this was a great one to get the weekend started off right. I’m not sure that you need see Hope Springs in theatres. There isn’t any particular special effect the big screen gives it, but I think it would make a great matinee.

A: 100% agreed. I don’t know if we’ll buy it, it’s not a must-see in theatres, but it’ll make a great matinee. (And if you live in Connecticut like we do, or you’re just from CT, maybe you’ll be interested to know that it was filmed around the Nutmeg State.)

FINAL VERDICT: A nice way to kill a weekend afternoon!

(Out of Five clapboards)

1 comment:

  1. Nice review! Glad to see it's not "It's Complicated" Part 2. I'll check this one out soon.