24 August 2014

Hope Springs (starring Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones)

Browsing through Amazon, as I do from time to time, I was given several recommendations for films starring Meryl Streep. I very much enjoy her versatility as an actress, and the blurb for this sounded good: a lighthearted rom-com about a middle-aged couple who want to put a bit of sparkle back in their relationship. So it went on my wishlist, and I was given it for my birthday a few months ago.

It starts well: Kay (Meryl Streep) is getting fed up with her structured but humdrum life, waiting hand and foot on her husband Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones). They sleep in separate bedrooms, and their physical contact consists of a quick peck on the cheek when he leaves for the office each morning, after being served a perfectly timed cooked breakfast.

Kay finds a book about marriage, and decides to sign up for a week of intensive counselling for couples - a brave move, since Arnold does not think they have any problems, and considers Kay is just being hormonally emotional...

There are some amusing asides amidst the bittersweet start to this film, and some great one-liners scattered (albeit sparsely) throughout. The characters of Arnold and Kay seemed all too realistic; one of the extras stated that probably every long-married couple can relate to at least some parts of their relationship, and I suspect that’s partly why some people find this uncomfortable viewing.

What did surprise me were the frequent references to intimacy, not just in general terms (clearly important) but in specifics, which I would have expected to give this at least a 15 rating. Even more so once Arnold and Kay start doing the ‘exercises’ they are set by Dr Feld (Steve Carell); while there’s no nudity, very little bad language and nothing overtly explicit, there’s a great deal that’s implied, which I would not want a 12-year-old seeing.

Having said that, we did like the film very much; Meryl Streep is brilliant as a repressed, bored middle-aged woman, as different from her other roles as ever. Tommy Lee Jones has just the right amount of curmudgeonly grumpiness to make him realistic, and while at first we see him as the cause of the marriage problems, it becomes clear in the counselling sessions that their difficulties have crept up on them slowly with both bearing some responsibility.

There are several extras, mostly variations on the making of the film, including some different takes that were not used, one amusing deleted scene, and a lot of commentary.

I’d recommend this, in a guarded way, to couples who have been together for a while, whether or not they have any problems; it’s a thought-provoking script and a very different kind of film. However I would not really recommend it to anyone under the age of about 30, as I suspect younger people would find it unbelievable, perhaps even a bit gross.

Review by copyright 2014 Sue's DVD Reviews