Title: Hope Springs
Director: David Frankel
Not sure what the numeric qualifications are to be considered an ensemble cast nominee, but the three key characters here put on an acting clinic in Hope Springs.
Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep have been married for over thirty years and let’s just say their daily lives are on bland repeat. Sleeping in separate rooms and literally only talking about their day at dinner, it’s quite obvious the luster of marriage has worn off, save for trivial kisses on the cheek each morning. Jones closes out each day passed out on the recliner with the Golf Channel on, while Streep cleans the dishes and eventually walks over to give him the tap to go up to his private quarters.
Well, the quiet Streep is tired of the lifeless repetition in their lives and books them on an expensive counseling retreat up in Maine. The counseling sessions are helmed by the methodical and patient, Steve Carell. Jones is not pleased in the slightest, especially after their first of many blunt sessions with Carell; but despite all his sane rationale and/or logic, he succumbs to her wishes and shacks up in the sleepy little town… in an Econo-Lodge.
First off, it’s always funnier when old people are doing it (in this case – literally and figuratively). That said, this isn’t a sprightful laugh riot. While the filmmakers could have easily “sold-out” and went with a Grumpy Old Men campy style; the tone remains semi-deep and serious the majority of the time. And that’s due to the fact that Streep and Jones, and the subject matter, are relatable to audiences. Well, except for teenagers who will probably think this is somehow gross. And hell, seeing Meryl Streep feel up Tommy Lee Jones is kind of awkward (though this guy was snickering).
A good portion of the 100 minutes sees Jones’ character complaining about the nature of the talkative sessions with Carell. And his attitude can mirror what the audience will think in some spots, as this can drag much like the agonizing, yet revealing, counseling the couple endures. Speaking of Jones, his portrayal reminds one of what Jack Nicholson and/or the late great Walter Matthau would have taken on in their more advanced years. And that translate to Jones executing crisp punch-line delivery that is both amusing and frankly, surprising. He could never keep up with a Will Smith in the Men in Black franchise from a comedic point-of-view, but the way the dynamics of the other two characters are enacted (Streep & Carell), his deadpan and intelligent sarcastic moments hit just the way they were intended every time.
And yes, Streep proves why she’s one of the finest actresses of our time blah, blah, blah. Plus, it was nice to see Carell engaged in a different persona.
Overall, Hope Springs casually becomes an engrossing study about a common occurrence many people go through in life. The acting is impeccable and there are a decent amount of chuckles to be had in what is essentially a serious dilemma.