Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Hope Springs: Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones Go Deep

     I never thought I’d see two acting titans navigating a scene involving oral sex in a public setting that goes from comic to awkward to poignant in a matter of seconds.  Credit that to those giants’ performances as well as Vanessa Taylor’s depth charged script and David Frankel’s direction that always emphasizes emotional complexity.  He directed Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada and she seems much more relaxed and imaginative in her work with him than she is with Phyllida Lloyd because she’s much more physical.  She reveals layers
of character through how she deals with her hair and the way she moves her wrists almost unconsciously.

Dexter Waches as Meryl Streep Practices Her Next Move
     Pretty much anyone who’s gone to a more highbrow American movie in the past thirty-five years knows that Streep is great.  It’s Tommy Lee Jones that grounds the movie emotionally.  As my Mom said, “he’s the epitome of what a sixty year old American man is like after thirty years of marriage.”  Decent, gruff, hard-working and both mystified by and wary of what his future could be, Jones is the best co-star, male or female, that Streep’s encountered since The Bridges of Madison County.  Steve Carell plays the part of their marriage counselor with intense sincerity.

Jones, Streep, and Carell in Session
     I thought this would be a smash because Streep has such a built in audience.  However, the previews have sold this as a cutesy comedy when it’s actually a delicate and honest drama with a sense of humor.  Neil wasn’t certain that audiences under thirty-five would be that interested and we saw a number of mature couples flee before the credits were over, leading us to assume that the subject matter hit a little too close to home.  Beyond the performances, Hope Springs is worth seeing because the art direction and the filmmakers’ attitude actually present a Midwestern, suburban, middle to upper-middle class couple without condescension and without over-prettifying their surroundings.

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