The trailers for Hope Springs might lead you to believe it's a romantic comedy about a couple trying to jumpstart their sexless marriage but it causes more empathetic cringing than chuckles. Audiences will be drawn to Hope Springs by its stars Meryl Streep Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carell and Streep's track record of pleasing summer movies like Julie & Julia and Mamma Mia! that offer a respite from the blockbusters flooding theaters. Despite what its marketing might have you believe Hope Springs isn't a rom-com. The film is a disarming mixture of deeply intimate confessions by a married couple in the sanctuary of a therapist's office awkwardly honest attempts by that couple to physically reconnect and incredibly sappy scenes underscored by intrusive music. Boldly addressing female desire especially in older women it's hard not to give the movie extra credit for what writer Vanessa Taylor's script is trying to convey and its rarity in mainstream film. The ebb and flow of intimacy and desire in a long-term relationship is what drives Hope Springs and while there are plenty contrived moments and unresolved issues it is frankly surprising and surprisingly frank. It's a summer release from a major studio with high caliber stars aimed squarely at the generally underserved 50+ audience addressing the even more taboo topic of that audience's sex life.
Streep plays Kay a suburban wife who's deeply unsatisfied emotionally and sexually by her marriage to Arnold. Arnold who is played by Tommy Lee Jones as his craggiest sleeps in a separate bedroom now that their kids have left the nest; he's like a stone cold robot emotionally and physically and Kay tiptoes around trying to make him happy even as he ignores her every gesture. One of the most striking scenes in the movie is at the very beginning when Kay primps and fusses over her modest sleepwear in the hopes of seducing her husband. Streep makes it obvious that this isn't an easy thing for Kay; it takes all her guts to try and wordlessly suggest sex to her husband and when she's shot down it hurts to watch. This isn't a one time disconnect between their libidos; this is an ongoing problem that leaves Kay feeling insecure and undesirable.
After a foray into the self-help section of her bookstore Kay finds a therapist who holds week-long intensive couples' therapy sessions in Good Hope Springs ME and in a seemingly unprecedented moment of decisiveness she books a trip for the couple. Arnold of course is having none of it but he eventually comes along for the ride. That doesn't mean he's up for answering any of Dr. Feld's questions though. To be fair Dr. Feld (Carell) is asking the couple deeply intimate questions so if Arnold is comfortable foisting his amorous wife off with the excuse he had pork for lunch it's not so far-fetched to believe he'd be angry when Feld asks him about his fantasy life or masturbation habits.
Although Arnold gets a pass on some of his issues Kay is forthright about why and how she's dissatisfied. When Dr. Feld asks her if she masturbates she says she doesn't because it makes her too sad. Kay offers similar revelations; she's willing to bare it all to revive her marriage while Arnold thinks the fact that they're married at all means they must be happy. Carell's Dr. Feld is soothing and kind (even a bit bland) but it's always a pleasure to see him play it straight.
It's subversive for a mega-watt star to play a character that talks about how sexually unsatisfied she is and how unsexy she feels with the man she loves most in the world. The added taboo of Kay and Arnold's age adds that much more to the conversation. Kay and Arnold's attempts at intimacy are emotionally raw and hard to watch. Even when things get funny they're mostly awkward funny not ha-ha funny.
The rest of the movie is a little uneven wrapped up tightly and happily by the end. Their time spent soul-searching alone is a little cheesy especially when Kay ends up in a local bar where she gets a little dizzy on white wine while dishing about her problems to the bartender (Elisabeth Shue). Somewhere along the line what probably started out as a character study ended up as a wobbly drama that pushes some boundaries but eventually lets everyone off the emotional hook in favor of a smoothed-over happy ending. Still its disarming moments and performances almost balance it out. Although its target audience might be dismayed to find it's not as light-hearted as it would seem Hope Springs offers up the opportunity for discussion about sexuality and aging at a time when books and films like 50 Shades of Grey and Magic Mike are perking up similar conversations. In the end that's a good thing.
It's really amazing what a successful film can do for one's status in Tinsel Town, even is said film wasn't all that good. Louis Leterrier went from working on modestly budgeted martial arts flicks to big-time Hollywood productions (with mixed critical results) and now he's quickly becoming a go-to director for various studio's developing projects. Just days after signing on to helm Summit's high-concept heist pic Now You See Me, the Frenchman has picked up another job: Universal Pictures mysteriously titled G.
On first glance I thought this was going to be a rapper-filled gangster picture, but luckily it's a lot more intriguing than that. The studio has divulged only the most basic details about the movie, simply stating that it is an original disaster film based on an idea from producer Guymon Casady. Our friends over at Coming Soon seem to think that the title suggests a reference to the Earth's gravitational constant and that a film dealing with that scientific principle could potentially involve that constant being altered and the dramatic effects that would result across the Earth. It's all speculation at this point, so I won't go further down the rabbit hole. But I will talk briefly about what this film could do for Leterrier.
He seems to be making a conscious decision to avoid properties and franchises at this point and that is the smartest thing he could do. He's pulling a complete career 180 and navigating toward a new creative path. Both of these new projects are grounded in familiar genres but contain fresh ideas with interesting narrative possibilities. Though he was able to handle the scope of the Marvel Universe and the Greek gods in Clash, his characters suffered from a lack of focus. His new films will test his competence as a storyteller; one will not succeed without well developed characters and a concise and gripping story (Now You See Me) while the other will force him to find new ways to terrorize an audience with a never-before-seen cataclysmic event (on film, that is). If he can turn these projects into hits, we'll have another major Hollywood player on our hands.
Source: Universal Pictures, Coming Soon
Source: Variety, The LA Times
Pre-existing properties are priorities for motion picture studios these days and Warner Brothers Pictures are forging ahead with film adaptations of two pop-culture staples.
First up, Variety reports that the studio and production company Atlas Entertainment are developing a feature film based on CBS' "Gilligan's Island." Charles Roven and Richard Suckle will produce for Atlas, with Brad Copeland writing the screenplay. Original show producer Sherwood Schwartz is on board to executive produce along with son Lloyd Schwartz.
The trade says that plans are for a contemporary take on the iconic show and that production is intended to start next year, but won't move forward on seeking a director or cast until Copeland's script is completed.
"The characters are so good," Roven said. "We think it's going to be a great story to transport these cultural icons to the modern day."
In addition, The Los Angeles Times reports that WB is also negotiating to acquire feature rights to classic video game "Space Invaders" from Taito, the Japanese company that originally manufactured the game. The project would be produced by Mark Gordon (The Day After Tomorrow, Saving Private Ryan), Jason Blum (Paranormal Activity) and Guymon Casady.
"Space Invaders" was designed by Tomohiro Nishikado and released in 1978. The game was later licensed for production in the United States by Midway.