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.
Bonham Carter's turn as beloved author Enid Blyton in Enid earned her the honour, while Walters received a double nod in the category - she has been nominated for her role in Mo, which saw her play British Labour Party politician Mo Mowlam, and drama A Short Stay In Switzerland.
The actresses, who both appear in the Harry Potter movie franchise, will compete with Hotel Rwanda star Sophie Okonedo for her portrayal of Winnie Mandela in Mrs Mandela.
The male acting category is also a battle of the Harry Potter stars - Kenneth Branagh (Wallander), John Hurt (An Englishman in New York) and Brendan Gleeson (Into The Storm) will go up against David Oyelowo (Small Island) for the Best Actor trophy.
Okonedo also received a nomination in the Best Supporting Actress category for drama Criminal Justice - she's up against Rebecca Hall (Red Riding 1974), Lauren Socha (The Unloved) and Imelda Staunton (Cranford).
Featured in the Best Supporting Actor category are Benedict Cumberbatch (Small Island), Tom Hollander (Gracie!), Gary Lewis (Mo) and Matthew Macfadyen (Criminal Justice).
Simon Cowell's hit TV contest Britain's Got Talent will compete with The Graham Norton Show, Harry Hill's TV Burp and Newswipe with Charlie Brooker for Best Entertainment Programme, while True Blood, Family Guy, Mad Men and Nurse Jackie are nominated for Best International Show.
The winners will be announced at a star-studded ceremony in London on 6 June (10).
Geena Davis has committed to another pet project, signing on for Columbia Pictures' next mousecapade, "Stuart Little 2."
Daily Variety says the sequel is planned for a Christmas 2001 release. "Stuart Little," a surprise hit and a big cheese at the holiday box office, has pulled in more than $136 million.
Stuart Little There's no word yet on the status of original "Little" director Rob Minkoff or co-stars Hugh Laurie, Jonathan Lipnicki and "Stuart's" voice, Michael J. Fox.
"Ghost" writer Bruce Joel Rubin will script the story. Greg Brooker and "Sixth Sense" director M. Night Shyamalan wrote the original screenplay.
Although the Christmas 2001 date might seem wishful given the picture's mix of live action and animatronics, insiders report that the crew doesn't have to scamper because much of the needed critter technology already exists.
FELINE FOLLIES: The cat's in the bag for Heather Graham, set to co-star in Miramax's furry adventure "When the Cat's Away." Brad Anderson ("Next Stop Wonderland") will direct the remake of the 1996 French feature "Chacun Cherche son Chat." The film begins shooting in New York this summer.
"Cat's Away" tells the story of a woman who goes on vacation and leaves her kitty with the neighborhood's pet baby sitter. When she returns, she discovers that her cat has skipped out on the sitter. The search for her purrfect friend brings the woman into contact with a cast of colorful characters.
THE SHRINK: When Mel Gibson has women problems, he turns (at least on film) to Bette Midler. The Hollywood Reporter says she's the one in final negotiations to play Gibson's shrink in Paramount Pictures' "What Women Want." The film, co-starring Helen Hunt, involves a chauvinist (Gibson) who acquires the ability to hear women's thoughts after an accident.
TIED UP IN 'TRAFFIC': Kevin Costner might speed ahead of Harrison Ford for a role in Steven Soderbergh's "Traffic." According to The Hollywood Reporter, Costner's a lead candidate to play a district court judge turned U.S. drug czar, along with actors Al Pacino and Tommy Lee Jones.
"Traffic's" a joint arthouse project for Fox Searchlight and Initial Entertainment Group. Since IEG acquired the international rights based on Ford's involvement, the group might or might not stay in the fast lane. Insiders say the race is too early to call.