One genius (not) local distributor decided to sell the film as Great Hope Springs. Considering the competition includes big-budgeted action flicks, I think he is hoping the additional “great” before the title will it more attractive to the general audience. However, Hope Springs, the latest Meryl Streep-starrer, though not great, is a good and surprisingly, tender look at relationships of older people. There is a persistent accusation that senior female stars do not get first-rate roles. There is truth in the claim but it is not applicable for Streep. Rule 1: provide Streep exceptional roles. Rule 2: nominate her for best actress. I am sure these rules are real and facts will back me up. Streep is in the running as the Queen of Geriatric Chick Flicks. That sounded both ageist and sexist but in lieu of better terms, I’ll stick to it. Geriatric chick flick is a sub-genre of chick flicks and has the same elements as its principal genus except its lead stars are senior citizens. Streep has reigned supreme because of Mamma Mia and It’s Complicated – both blockbuster hits for the incredible screen legend.
Kay (Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) are both going through a rough stage in their marriage. In order to rescue their three-decade relationship, Kay sought the professional assistance of Dr. Feld (Steve Carrell) regardless of objections from her husband. No one said it is going to be a painless counselling session in Maine.
In spite of the rom-com feel, Hope Springs tackles the serious issue of relationships (including the intimate kind) of older people. No one talks about this kind of relationship so seldom does a film tackling the subject matter is created. There is so much drama and humor to be mined in such situations but mainstream film producers will not risk their dollars for some post-menopausal chick flick. Though there is a clear age and gender discrimination, I think the decision not to create more geriatric chick flicks is natural. It is akin to ACCIDENTALLY WITNESSING the intimate nocturnal occupations of our parents. The ickiness level is just so outside the arc of acceptable human experience. It is normal, I know, and this is the natural process how each of us came to life but this does not mean we have to see it. Older people still bump uglies but looking at older people bumping uglies is a different matter. It is a different beast that for some people need not be unleashed.
But Streep and Jones are not some people. These actors are some of the best in the planet and their innate pluck in taking on such roles make them more admirable. It is often said a good director cannot resuscitate a bad film but good actors can and does most of the time. Streep and Jones did just that for Hope Springs. Streep presented a range of comic and dramatic emotions, once again confirming her greatness. Jones cranked up his charming crankiness and afforded the female lead star the perfect foil.
There are a number of frenetic-paced films in the cinemas but I implore the good people of Earth to take a chance on this one. Fear not of an arthritic tempo for Hope Springs has enough human drama to keep the audience at full attention. Not to mention enough laughs.
(Take a crack at this challenge: keep a straight face in the film theater scene.)