Francesca Rudkin

Francesca Rudkin is an entertainment reviewer for NZ Herald.

Movie Review: Hope Springs

Meryl Streep in Hope Springs. Photo / Supplied.
Meryl Streep in Hope Springs. Photo / Supplied.

Just like books, movies shouldn't be judged by their cover.

Hope Springs wears the tagline, "a new comedy from the director of The Devil Wears Prada", has been promoted by an upbeat trailer with a romantic comedy feel, and stars Steve Carell.

You'd be forgiven for expecting another delightful and lighthearted Meryl Streep-driven comedy along the lines of It's Complicated.

You'd be wrong. Hope Springs has grander ambitions than just making us laugh, and Carell diligently avoids being funny. More drama than comedy, it's actually rather determined to make us sad.

Those who lament the lack of decent movies about mature relationships will be pleased with the serious tone, and it's a well-performed and genuine attempt to discuss the challenge of keeping a marriage alive for 31 years.

Streep in particularly is in fine form as Kay, a middle class housewife keen to spice up her marriage to husband Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) now the kids have left home.

When Arnold fails to fall for her advances, she decides it's time for intensive marriage counselling and books the two of them into a course of therapy with Dr Feld (Carell) in the picturesque town of Great Hope Springs in Maine.

If getting Arnold to Great Hope Springs was hard, Kay has an even harder time getting Arnold to participate in what is essentially a week of sex therapy. The grumpy and stingy Arnold huffs and puffs his way through the sessions and exercises, all of which provide plenty of amusing and awkward moments, until all of a sudden it's no longer very funny.

The further the therapy continues the more real relationship problems emerge, and Hope Springs morphs into a real-life drama that is a touch depressing. Director David Frankel's approach accentuates this, he lets the scenes linger and he doesn't allow his actors to revert to comedy to get through the discomfort.

When proceedings start to drag you wait for that one hysterically funny outrageous moment, or for Carell to drop his controlled performance and let rip. It never arrives.

Streep and Jones work brilliantly together though. So as long as you're aware watching Hope Springs is a little like being in therapy yourself and having the occasional laugh, you'll find this film rewarding.

Cast: Meryl Streep, Steve Carell, Tommy Lee Jones
Director: David Frankel Running time: 100 mins
Rating: M (Sexual references)
Verdict: Beautifully acted, but needs more laughs.
Stars: 3/5

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