The devil who wore Prada and the man in Black go for marriage counselling in the romantic comedy Hope Springs. Steve Carrell plays it straight as the relationship ‘guru’ trying to reconcile prudish housewife Kay (Meryl Streep) and grumpy old Arnold’s (Tommy Lee Jones) 31 year old marriage.
Directed by David Franke, who coaxed out of Streep her wonderfully iconic performance of powerful fashion Editrix, Miranda Priestly, in hit film, The Devil wears Prada. Hope Springs, though, is a much smaller and gentler film, but not without its ambitions. While it’s set for a feel good resolution and with its look and mood more middle class suburban than cosmopolitan, it’s decidedly risque in wanting to go to bed with mature audiences in a frank discussion about sex and marriage.
Sixty-somethings, Streep and Jones are easily up to the task as the now celibate couple. Co-habitants with seperate bedrooms. Jones does a fantastic job as the grouchy, set-in-his-ways emotional mute husband. Ms Streep is, as always, extremely watchable for her nuances and even here gives way to her naivete displaying a coquettishness rarely seen in mature mainstream roles. The film is very much from her perspective, her character sets the films agenda and subtly alludes to the re-stablishing of tradition gender roles of masculine authority and feminine permissiveness. This being the first time the two veterans have shared the screen, it’s also a major coup that they also end up in bed together.
The major let down in the mix though, is the unexciting script and the overtly sentimental and corny soundtrack which bludgeons the ears to only reinforce narrative moments, which, if Frankel had been doing a better job directing wouldn’t needed the histrionic wailings of Annie Lennox. But this is unequivocally a Hollywood mainstream film, so while it doesn’t exactly dumb things down, not many risks are taken also. Particularly in sending mixed messages. So here is what to expect along with the aforementioed soundtrack, a montage sequence will show the symbolic journey and highlight what is at stake, soaring birds eye view helicopter shots of a rugged coastline to emphasise the perilous state of the relationship and perhaps an epilogue during the credits, not exactly a blooper reel but the mature audience version which shows the principals in their more natural state celebrating their characters triumph. It’s all very charming and endearing, another feel good device just in case you didn’t really like the film but this may change your mind.
Director: David Frankel
Writer: Vanessa Taylor
Stars: Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, Steve Carell
Runtime: 100 min