Friday, August 24, 2012

Hope Springs

My dad hated Meryl Streep. He used to paraphrase Katharine Hepburn's criticism, "Wind her up and she acts." I mention this because he used to rant about her in the '80s—having ruined two of his favorite books (The French Lieutenant's Woman and Sophie's Choice)—long before I'd ever seen her in any movie, except Kramer vs. Kramer, which I really didn't pay much attention to.

When I finally did see her in Silkwood (or maybe it was Still of the Night) I was inclined to agree. She's acting. It's very obvious. But I don't know if this is one of those situations where the rest of the world is wrong (which happens so often) or I was prejudiced (which happens nearly as often). When she started doing comedy, I started enjoying her performances more. She-Devil, Postcards From The Edge, Death Becomes Her—they all seemed a lot more relaxed. (My favorite performance of hers remains her winningly playing herself in Stuck On You.)

I think she's a sweetheart in real life.

I mention all this because I was drifting aimlessly this weekend and stumbled in to see Hope Springs, the senior-sex-comedy-romp (a completely inapt description) with Streep and perpetually crusty Tommy Lee Jones.

She acts a lot in this movie. Every detail is perfect. Her character is defined not just through dialogue but through every little mannerism and movement.

I just couldn't stop noticing it.

So, that's my caveat for this benign if odd tale of a couple in their 60s who haven't touched each other for years and wind up at an "intensive couples therapy retreat" to try to save their marriage.

As long as I'm talking about acting, Jones is Jones and naturally great in this role. You can imagine it if you've ever seen him in anything post, say, The Eyes of Laura mars. Steve Carell is the therapist and manages to tread that fine line between sensitive and goofy. (Therapists seem to actually be goofy; it's a fine line, indeed.)

 Jones and Streep have a plausible chemistry and the screenplay avoids a lot of the most obvious landmines, such as blaming the husband for everything (which is how it would've played out a few years ago). Things move along fairly briskly, with some laughs along the way. It's not boring.

It is kinda weird, though.

It's weird because there's a lot of goofy humor mixed in with some severe pathos. It's weird because there's a constant reminder of the age of the participants, mixed with very explicit details. It's weird because there's a setup for a kind of dramatic reveal that—well, just never happens and doesn't seem to matter.

Even Carell's character is essentially superfluous (again, very much like a real therapist rim-shot).

So, reserved recommendation from me. (The kids weren't with me: I mean, old people making out! Eww! Not that I asked. I really was drifting aimlessly.)

Oh, also, if you've seen the full-length trailer? You've seen the whole movie. The trailer hits every beat in the movie except two, almost every funny line, and the entire shape of the film, too. There are literally no surprises here.

There was a great preview for Frank Langella's upcoming film Robot and Frank, which looks great, but it also gives away the entire movie. What happened to the tease?


  1. I'm afraid my bride is going to make me go!

  2. It's watchable. By-the-numbers. Jokes mostly still work even though you've seen all of them in the trailer.

    You could do worse. And you could get lucky afterwards, so there's that.

  3. Well, I've always like Tommy Lee, but feel the same about Streep.

    Just watched J Edgar on HBO. Not horrible but disappointing.

    Have you seen Bernie? It is a uniquely dark nonfiction comedy.

  4. You and I talked a bit about Bernie here.

    J. Edgar was disappointing, yeah.

  5. Thanks, Blake. Those synapses aren't always firing.

  6. I heard that.

    And immediately forgot it.


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