Tales of romance and high schmaltz are something of an acquired taste in cinema. Much like testosterone fuelled action, or outlandish science fiction, Romantic movies have a specific audience to aim at and as such, will more than likely divide the room when it comes to opinions. Hope Springs, the latest from The Devil Wears Prada helmer David Frankel, is most definitely one of those movies but nevertheless exudes enough honesty and charm to appeal to even the most stonehearted of folk.
Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) have been happily married for 30 years, but from sleeping in separate bedrooms and simply growing older, physical affection has all but evaporated in their relationship. In an effort to rekindle the youthful intimacy that somehow got lost along the years, Kay coerces her husband to an intensive counselling retreat under the tutelage of relationship expert Dr. Feld (Steve Carell). What follows is a heart-warming, comedic tale of two people reigniting the fire of their love and remembering why they are married in the first place.
While it won’t be to everyone’s taste, Hope Springs is a lovely film with an exceptionally written script and a sweet level of humour its trio of stars project with absolute brilliance. Streep is delightful yet again, illustrating her obvious versatility as the loving but frustrated wife who fears old age will spell the end of any intimate bedroom frolicking with her husband. Tommy Lee Jones’s turn as the grumpy old man obliviously dismissive to the emotional needs of his wife is a somewhat familiar fair, but no-less endearing and ultimately contributes to a brilliant chemistry between the two. They play their roles with a certain honesty that makes their relationship utterly believable on screen. While obviously feeling sympathy towards Streep for the most part, we never feel any hatred towards the misunderstood Jones, so it splays a perfect balance of imperfection in both rather than simply blaming the husband for everything. As result, we end up really routing for them to sort out their troubles…even if it is essentially willing on two old people to get a bit frisky. Steve Carrell is charged with getting these bickering spouses back in the sack and he doesn’t disappoint either. Never being overly comedic or forced, Dr Feld’s stand offs with an overly defensive Arnold are where the film shares its funnier moments. It becomes a pleasure to watch the trio at work, delivering an often perfectly toned script with the right amount of sincerity to make it work.
Witnessing the two aged lovers attempt to return to a time when they were very much in love is a very charming journey indeed. Yes, it may frequently descend into a thick fog of concentrated corniness, and go through the motions of other films of a similar ilk but it’s expected if not unavoidable with such a story. There are a good few moments that raise a smile and overall it’s a comfortable watch due to its safe familiarity.
Hope Springs is a pleasant surprise; it’s a charming, sentimental tale that should resonate with any a moviegoer that find themselves in a loving relationship. Tackling such a story between people of an older generation was in danger of isolating a younger audience, but Frankel’s overriding message is a simple one that everyone should relate to.
Hope Springs is released on the 14th of September.