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.
Enigmatic and deliberate Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy makes no reservations while unraveling its heady spy story for better or worse. The film based on the bestselling novel by John Le Carre is purposefully perplexing effectively mirroring the central character George Smiley's (Gary Oldman) own mind-bending investigation of the British MI6's mole problem. But the slow burn pacing clinical shooting style and air of intrigue only go so far—Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy sports an incredible cast that can't dramatically translate the movie's impenetrable narrative. Almost from the get go the movie collapses under its own weight.
After a botched mission in Hungary that saw his colleague Jim (Mark Strong) gunned down in the streets Smiley and his boss Control (John Hurt) are released from the "Circus" (codename for England's Secret Intelligence Service). But soon after Smiley is brought back on board as an impartial observer tasked to uncover the possible infiltration of the organization. The former agent already dealing with the crippling of his own marriage attempts to sift through the history and current goings on of the Circus narrowing his hunt down to four colleagues: Percy aka "Tinker" (Toby Jones) Bill aka "Tailor" (Colin Firth) Roy aka "Soldier" (Ciaran Hinds) and Toy aka "Poor Man" (David Dencik). Working with Peter (Benedict Cumberbatch) a conflicted younger member of the service and Ricki (Tom Hardy) a rogue agent who has information of his own Smiley slowly uncovers the muddled truth—occasionally breaking in to his own work place and crossing his own friends to do so.
Describing Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as dense doesn't seem complicated enough. The first hour of the monster mystery moves at a sloth's pace trickling out information like the tedious drips of a leaky faucet. The talent on display is undeniable but the characters Smiley included are so cold that a connection can never be made. TTSS sporadically jumps around from past to present timelines without any indication: a tactic that proves especially confusing when scenes play out in reoccurring locations. It's not until halfway through that the movie decides to kick into high gear Smiley's search for a culprit finally becoming clear enough to thrill. A film that takes its time is one thing but Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy does so without any edge or hook.
What the movie lacks in coherency it makes up for in style and thespian gravitas. Director Tomas Alfredson has assembled some of the finest British performers working today and they turn the script's inaccessible spy jargon into poetry. Firth stands out as the group's suave slimeball a departure from his usual nice guy roles. Hardy assures us he's the next big thing once again as the agency's resident moppet a lover who breaks down after a romantic fling uncovers horrifying truth. Oldman is given the most difficult task of the bunch turning the reserved contemplative Smiley into a real human. He half succeeds—his observational slant in the beginning feels like an extension of the movie's bigger problems but once gets going in the second half of the film he's quite a bit of fun.
Alfredson constructs Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy like a cinematic architect each frame dripping with perfectly kitschy '70s production design and camera angles that make the spine tingle. He creates paranoia through framing similar to the Coppola's terrifying The Conversation but unlike that film TTSS doesn't have the characters or story to match. The movie strives to withhold information and succeeds—too much so. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy wants us to solve a mystery with George Smiley but it never clues us in to exactly why we should want to.
Actress Angelina Jolie was named as goodwill ambassador by the UN refugee agency UNHCR in Geneva on Monday, Reuters reports. Jolie was apparently close to tears when she recalled her trips to refugee camps in Pakistan and Sierra Leone, describing the conditions as frightening and shocking. Other goodwill ambassadors have included Sophia Loren and Richard Burton.
French actor Philippe Leotard died Saturday in a Paris clinic from respiratory failure at the age of 60, Reuters reports. Leotard appeared in films such as Les Miserables in 1995 and French Connection II in 1975. President Jacques Chirac said in a statement, "For all French people, Phillipe Leotard will remain one of our most moving artists."
A Marin County Superior Court is refusing to dismiss a lawsuit over the ownership of five of Jerry Garcia's guitars, the Associated Press reports. Grateful Dead Productions, the company representing the surviving band mates, asked Judge Michael Dufficy to dismiss a lawsuit by Doug Irwin for custody of the guitars. Irwin, a custom guitar maker who built the instruments for Garcia, says he is the guitar's rightful owner. Garcia left the guitars to Irwin in his will but Grateful Dead Productions claims to have bought the guitars and that they were not for Garcia to give away. Dufficy ruled last week that the company had not proven that Irwin's three-year statute of limitations to claim the guitars had expired.
A federal appellate court dismissed a lawsuit by producer Kevin McClory against MGM and Danjaq Prods. that claimed he was the co-creator of the James Bond character. According to Variey, Monday's decision upheld a lower-court ruling last year dismissing the suit on the grounds that McClory took too long to assert his rights to the Bond character. McClory collaborated with writer Ian Fleming in the 1950s on a script for Thunderball, and obtained some rights to the story in 1963.
The Dixie Chicks are countersuing Sony Music Entertainment and accusing the company of "systematic thievery" for duping them out of more than $4 million in royalties, according to AP. The country music trio is also seeking to end a seven-album deal with Sony. The company sued the Dixie Chicks in July for breach of contract and accused the group of trying to leave the label by trumping up claims that they had been underpaid. The suit also said that the Dixie Chicks demanded the company renegotiate their contract despite being paid millions.
In the ongoing battle for the Screen Actors Guild presidency, Valerie Harper has turned down Melissa Gilbert's invitation to take part in a public debate, Variety reports. Harper said that SAG issues are private and should not be reduced to fodder for the media. Gilbert responded to Harper's statements by saying it would be inappropriate to expect members to vote without having the opportunity to hear the candidate's views on relevant issues. Gilbert has chosen MASH star Mike Farrell as her running mate.
Victoria "Posh Spice" Beckham is hitting the bookstores in double doses. According to Reuters, the self-promoting ex-Spice Girl is publishing an autobiography entitled Learning to Fly on September 13. That is 11 days before an unauthorized biography, Victoria's Secrets, hits shelves. Written by Virginia Blackburn, the tell-all Victoria's Secrets is based on interviews with ex-boyfriends, friends and former dance teachers. Posh also has a new single coming out on Sept. 17 called "Not Such an Innocent Girl."
The WB network has decided to shelve the 13-episode season of the animated series Baby Blues, as well as six episodes held over from last season, Variety reports. The show reportedly did not fit in with WB's five new live-action, adult-oriented shows this fall.
The Cuban artists and bands that were nominated for the Latin Grammy awards have all been cleared to travel to attend the Sept. 11 event in Los Angeles and are awaiting entry visas from the US government, Reuters reports. The show was moved to Los Angeles from Miami because of concerns that protests from Cuban exile groups could jeopardize the safety of performers and guests.
Jennifer Lopez, Celia Cruz and Lou Diamond Phillips have been added as presenters for the 2nd Annual Latin Grammy Awards in Los Angeles in next month. Artist Alejandro Fernandez and his father Vicente Fernandez will also perform together for the first time in the U.S., joining previously announced appearances by Juanes, Luis Miguel, Alejandro Sanz and Thalia. The Latin Grammy Awards will be telecast on CBS on Sept. 11.
In a boy band first, the Backstreet Boys are preparing to release a greatest hits album. According to ABC News, the compilation is scheduled for release on Oct. 23 and will include the new single "Drowning" from their latest album Black & Blue. The Backstreet Boys have released four albums so far.
Whoopi Goldberg's online gift currency company Flooz.com will file for bankruptcy, according to its Web site. According to a message posted on the site, the company blames changes in capital markets and a general slowdown in the economy for the setback. However, a New York Times report noted that the Web site became a target for thieves in both Russia and the Philippines who used stolen credit cards to buy $300,000 in Flooz during the past three months.
They could be worth millions to die-hard Grateful Dead fans-but, for the time being, they're staying in the hands of the man who built them. According to The Associated Press, five guitars owned and played by the late Jerry Garcia are in the legal spotlight in San Rafael, Calif., as a Marin County Superior Court judge has ruled that the man who made the instruments, Doug Irwin, was the rightful owner. Grateful Dead Productions had argued that Irwin's statute of limitations as owner of the guitars had expired and collectors should have the opportunity to purchase them.