Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Hope Springs (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway

Hope Springs

"Hope Springs" is a pleasant valentine to the Baby Boomer set. Although predictable, its earnestness is hard to resist. The star chemistry beguiles even though you can sense what will happen several scenes ahead. The brisk and lively pacing smooths over whatever routine moments the story possesses. Its greatest charm is its easy, picaresque narrative. The film goes by like a Maine ocean breeze and it never overstays its welcome.

"Hope Springs" stars Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones as Kay and Arnold, respectively, a couple with a marriage in crisis after some 32 years. Day in and day out Arnold works in an office and   then comes home to watch golf and eat dinner and breakfast in an unending vertical line . No contact or intimacy is ever seen except for a sterile kiss before work. This plodding domestic tread begins to wear on the amiable Kay, who craves excitement or at least some sudden spontaneity from a stagnant spouse. We even see her change outfits and try different colors, although Kay is never one to be racy.

Arnold, for his part, is lost in a fog. He spends so much time in his overstuffed chair that his rectangular and blocked      body becomes part of it. His eyes resemble dark fish that swim in a sea of wrinkles. Arnold's body closes up like a clam-shell. 

No one is getting in.

Kay wants to go to marriage counseling. Much of the film details the back and forth between the couple: the moments that are either frustrating or frenzied, quirky or comical. None of it is upsetting or all that enlightening but that's okay. 

It's not supposed to be.

The entertainment comes from watching Streep and Tommy Lee Jones play off of one another. Kay is befuddled, concerned, surprised, but always optimistic and Meryl Streep has the range to make such a Hallmark story so watchable. Arnold is gruff and silent, but by no means selfish or self centered; he just feels intimately boxed in. And if you can stand Tommy Lee Jones's laborious breathing and dead pan expressions that seldom vary, (except in some lively foreplay that's fun to watch) along with Streep's perpetual worry, you will find this film an amiable semi-romp in the hay.

The one misstep is the casting of Steve Carell as the therapist. Carell is quite authentic as a doctor, but this is not life, it is a dramatic story and on this level, his role is far too generic and uninspired. Carell's character could be delivered by anyone and goes stale. His one joke about a broken nose is just not funny.

"Hope Springs" is a breezy jaunt along life's spousal shallows. Although, it is not a very deep film, it makes for a buoyant September Idyll. Streep and Jones each have such a cinematic legacy between them and they carry this history with them. When the two work together they are invigorating and become fun to watch on a purely facial level.

Forget about the often-heard Annie Lennox song or the overused, but wonderfully upbeat Van Morrison track. Such trappings temporarily impede the film's motion. Yet by the film's end, "Hope Springs" lifts to the occasion. We see Arnold and Kay as genuine lovers and we come to know them by a series of intimate sequences that will move along your retinal seas and create a wake of smiles within.

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