Last night I caught Hope Springs (Sony, 8.10), which is not what the trailers are selling — i.e., a chuckly, easy-going “comedy” about a 60ish straightlaced couple (Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones) rediscovering sex and romance through therapy. I would instead call it a modest, agreeably honest, dialogue-driven two-hander about…well, heart and trust and intimacy and such. And very well acted, especially by Streep.
Intimacy is never easy for guys, particularly conservative boomers, but you can’t live any kind of life without it and we all need to give it up, and so you have to give Hope Springs credit for trying, at least, to nudge us in the right direction. It was said last night that “this movie is going to change lives.” I don’t know about that, but it’s nice that a commercial movie is even poking at this subject.
It’s seasoned with light humor and…okay, one laugh-out-loud gag set in a movie theatre, but it’s mainly an appealing, plain-spoken relationship “talk” piece that fiddles with sadness and old-age melancholy without digging into it too deeply. It’s honest and respectable with making things too uncomfortable. Love sustains and refreshes and makes it all worthwhile, but who wants to get into facing the last third of your life and being past your sexual prime and not working out like you used to and popping Cialis? Gnarly stuff, that. Certainly not the stuff that sells popcorn.
Imagine what the great Mike Leigh or somebody on his level would do with a story about a 63 year-old housewife looking to jazz things up with her husband of 30-odd years. Something a bit bolder and more invasive than Hope Springs would emerge, I’m thinking, but at the same time something less commercial, even with the great Meryl Streep in the lead. So it seems right that Hope Springs doesn’t try and drill too deeply. It feels like it’s aimed at those who wants to believe what it’s selling — i.e., over-40 women and couples.
The feeling I got last night (I saw it with an older crowd at the Aero) is that the audience was content with Hope Springs and definitely respectful of its originality and intentions, but at the same not exactly lifted out of their seats. But they seemed happy with it, agreed with it, liked it.
I have to leave for Monument Valley in an hour or so so all I can do is repeat that this modestly-made film, produced by Todd Black and Guymon Casady and directed by David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada) after Mike Nichols bailed, is deeper and more touching than what those lying-ass trailers have been selling, and that the script by Vanessa Taylor isn’t exactly dense with plot turns but it does have an arc — when will Jones finally open up and let intimacy take its course? When will he finally treat Streep with a little romantic respect and show a little vigor in the sack?
I’ll have plenty more to say this weekend or next week. I wasn’t going to write anything but I heard last night that the embargo had been lifted so I dove in as much as I had time for.