09 February 2015

Hope Springs (starring Colin Firth, Heather Graham and Minnie Driver)

It doesn’t take much to confuse me. So, I was mystified by finding reviews of a film I had seen - the 2012 ‘Hope Springs’ starring Meryl Streep - and one I had no recollection of, starring Colin Firth, with the same title. I did realise fairly quickly that these were entirely different productions, and put the latter on my wishlist, as it sounded like a good film. We watched it last night with our younger son, who is in his 20s.

Colin Firth’s character is also called Colin. He’s an Englishman who is very talented at charcoal portraits, and arrives in a small town called Hope in the USA. We quickly learn that he’s suffered a painful betrayal, and is running away from his memories of his ex-fiancĂ©e, Vera.

He stays at an inn, owned by a friendly couple who send him a therapist, the vibrant Mandy (Heather Graham). There’s a strong attraction between the two, after a slightly shaky start, and Colin is beginning to feel that he can move on, when Vera (Minnie Driver) turns up, determined to woo him back…

The overall plot is fairly predictable, but the detail is unexpected, and beautifully done. Mandy is decidedly quirky with a host of problems of her own, and Vera is not the harpy she first seems. There’s a very good chemistry between Vera and Colin, which is explained in the brief documentary ‘extra’: apparently the two have worked together many times and know each other well.

And it’s a lot of fun. Some ‘rom-com’ films are high on the romance but have little comedy; others rely on slapstick or bawdy humour that appeals to a limited audience only. This one (mostly) gets it just right: the timing is superb, the script cleverly written. There are some obvious cultural misunderstandings that lead to humour, but most of it is understated and all the more amusing as a result. There are some decidedly silly sections too, and it’s not a thought-provoking or even memorable film - but we liked it.

There’s some lovely scenery - the autumn colours are there in full - but the story is character-based, and the settings less relevant. The three main players are excellent, with the minor ones portraying lovable caricatures who add to the whole. The pace is just right, and at around 90 minutes, it felt like a perfect length.

Rated 12 in the UK, PG-13 in the US, I think that’s probably appropriate. Most of the bad language is minor - and not excessive - and we only noticed one incident of so-called ‘strong’ language. There are, unsurprisingly, some bedroom scenes, but they’re tastefully done; people are shown in underwear more than once, but they are not directly shown doing anything ‘adult’. There are plenty of implications; however the storyline is such that I can’t imagine anyone under the age of about fifteen or sixteen being interested anyway.

The only ‘extra’ is a brief documentary featuring most of the main characters, explaining that most of the filming was done in heavy rain.

Recommended, if you want something lightweight and enjoy the romantic comedy genre.

Review by copyright 2015 Sue's DVD Reviews

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