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.
Dino Andrade remembers his wife as an ebullient personality, a talented actress who performed all the female character voices on "South Park," and his closest and dearest personal friend. What he doesn't remember is a clue -- any inkling, any shred of information or evidence that could have helped him stopMary Kay Bergman from shooting herself to death at age 38 last November.
Seven months after his wife's suicide, Andrade is on a mission. Bergman, he believes, suffered from an acute mental illness that she kept hidden -- even from him -- for years. Now, Andrade wants to help other actors and Hollywood types who likewise may be heading down potentially suicidal paths, and set them straight.
"A lot of these folks will keep their condition a secret, because they feel their reputation is on the line," Andrade, 36, an independent filmmaker, tells Hollywood.com in his first at-length interview since his wife's death.
A few months ago, Andrade established a memorial fund in his wife's name. His goal is to raise enough money to start the Mary Kay Bergman Mental Health Association, an adjunct to the Greater Los Angeles Suicide Prevention Center that would have a hotline, counseling and crisis intervention services for the entertainment industry. The association would give complete anonymity to entertainment pros, so they won't have to fear seeing their names in supermarket tabloids.
Kyle's Mom He believes that actors, in particular, are apt to hide mental health issues behind well-trained masks, just as Bergman did.
Bergman, who graduated from Hollywood High School, was blessed with a gift for mimicry, and got into voice-over work after she was discovered in a karaoke bar.
She was the voices of a half-dozen female "South Park" characters (including Kyle's battle ax of a mom), but she also did lots of voice-over work for animated films, video games, and feature films. She worked a lot for Disney (her voice was featured in "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Hunchback of Notre Dame," among others) and she was also heard in "The Iron Giant." One of her few on-screen roles is in "Bob's Video," a yet-unreleased movie directed by Andrade, her husband of nine years.
To give you an idea of her versatility, Bergman performed 16 different voices on the song "Blame Canada" in "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut."
Despite a few news reports published around the time of Bergman's death, Andrade insists his wife was not a "Hollywood casualty" driven to suicide by the cut-throat entertainment industry. "She had this business by the balls," he says. "Unfortunately, she was ill."
Andrade now believes his wife suffered from Generalized Anxiety Disorder, a disease for which she was neither diagnosed nor treated. After Bergman died, Andrade says he found herbal mood medications that she had hidden in their home. "She was determined to fight it on her own."
To her family and friends, and even her doctor, it appeared that Bergman was merely stressed out due to over-work. She and her husband planned a vacation, but what they didn't know was that Bergman really needed therapy and drug treatment to rid her of the irrational fears and demons of an advanced condition, Andrade says.
"I think she was dealing with this for years, hiding behind the voices of other people. The one mystery we'll never know is why she kept it a secret."
Shortly after this year's Academy Awards, Andrade took out a full-page ad in Variety, paying tribute to Bergman and imploring all in Hollywood who suffer from mental anguish to seek help. The feedback was immediate and supportive, he says.
"I don't want my Mary Kay's death to be a waste," Andrade says. "And already, I know that it is not. When we ran that advertisement, people called and said they were ill and they would seek help. That's what's giving me the strength to carry on with this, to reach others who are suffering but afraid to get help."
Maybe they'll call it "South Park: Smaller, Shorter & Definitely Cut."
While those little two-dimensional kids from Colorado used every four-letter word in existence last summer in their big-screen debut, at the Academy Awards later this month they may have to bite their tongues.
"South Park" "Blame Canada," the bring-down-the-house number from "South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut," is nominated for the Best Original Song Oscar, but its use of the dreaded "F" word and other naughty references has become a hot potato for the cartoon's creators, Academy officials and ABC network censors.
One thing's certain: "Blame Canada," like all the other nominees, will be performed at the Oscars, as per tradition. But will the offensive words be deleted? Will the TV network bleep out the foul language, like CBS did when Alanis Morissette performed "You Oughta Know" (which contained the dreaded "F") on the Grammys in 1996? Is the song being rewritten (as the latest Internet rumors suggest), with primetime-friendly words? If so, will it still be funny?
"As it stands now, the song lyrics are in the hands of Marc Shaiman and Trey Parker, the writers, to see how they want to present it," says Jane Labonte, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Labonte says the Academy hasn't issued any edicts to the "South Park" guys about the lyrics and that such matters are to be decided by the ABC standards and practices department.
Meanwhile, a network spokesman says it's up to Shaiman, Parker and the Academy Awards to propose whether the song be reworked. When that happens, ABC will issue its yay or nay.
For the uninitiated, "Blame Canada" is the satirical lynchpin of "Bigger, Longer & Uncut." The mothers of Stan, Cartman, Kenny and the gang sing it after deciding that the flatulent cartoon characters Terrance and Philip, and other Canadian cultural exports, are to blame for all the ills of their world and their foul-mouthed kids.
In the song, the moms bemoan that their little darlings "just want to fart and curse," or want to "run off and join the Klan." One mother says her once loving son now "tells me to [expletive-deleted] myself." Some of the refrains include, "It seems that everything's gone wrong/Since Canada came along," and "With all their hockey hubbabbaloo/And that bitch Anne Murray, too." The mothers stage a boycott of Canada that soon degenerates into full-scale war with our northern neighbors.
Now, in a great case of Hollywood irony, a song from a movie that's essentially a satire on censorship may have to be censored.
"They use [the 'F' word], which is actually a problem, and also there is the line about going off to join the Klan. That's not OK with standards and practices," says Labonte. "And I'm not sure about the line about Anne Murray being a bitch."
With the baggage that "Blame Canada" carries, it's a wonder that the "South Park" folks didn't submit one of the other numbers in the movie for Academy consideration. What about that cute little number, "What Would Brian Boitano Do?" in which the boys look to their god-like Olympic skater for inspiration to help them save the world? Or how about "Kyle's Mom's A B**ch"?
"It was a hard decision for them, but the main reason they chose 'Blame Canada' is that it's a turning point in the film," says Jennifer Howell, "South Park" associate producer. "It explains a huge amount of the story, it's heavy in exposition. I don't think there is another song you could pull out of the movie and have it make sense and truly show that this is a good musical."
All right, then. But what about the dear, unmentionable "Uncle F***a?"
"That's one of people's favorite songs, but it doesn't serve the film in the same way," Howell says.
In addition to possible lyrical excisions, the "South Park" gang is also wrestling with another question: Who will perform the song at the Academy Awards?
One thing's for certain -- it won't be actress Mary Kay Bergman, who performed the voices of three mothers in the movie (and in the TV show) and was the main vocalist in "Blame Canada." Bergman committed suicide in November.
Officials with the Academy and at the "South Park" offices alike say this matter hasn't been decided yet. The song could be performed by Trey Parker or by the "South Park" characters via an animated segment or by someone else altogether. (May we suggest Whitney Houston, Barbra Streisand or, better yet, Britney Spears.)
It has been rumored that, in order to save time, this year's Oscar-nominated songs won't be performed in their entirety but rather excerpted in a medley. [The Academy declined comment.]
Still, a medley might make it easier for "Blame Canada" to avoid being hacked by the censors. "I assume that they [Parker and Shaiman] would not include those lyrics that are considered offensive, if they were only doing part of the song," Howell says. Then again, knowing Parker, he'd probably make sure the most foul-mouthed stanzas are included, just to ruffle a few feathers.
"Trey being the twisted man he is, I would be very surprised to see him not give the song an odd twist at the Oscars instead of bleeping out the words to please the censors," says Matt Godfroy, webmaster of Mr. Hat's Hell Hole (www.thehellhole.com), an unofficial South Park Web site. "I'd expect you to see a video montage with a small tribute to Mary Kay Bergman. I wouldn't rule out a 'South Park' animated video to perform the song, made especially for the awards show."
And perhaps the biggest question still looms: What if "Blame Canada" wins the Oscar? Who will walk up to the podium to accept? Will it be Stan, Kyle, Cartman and Kenny? Their moms?
We have no bleepin' idea.
For all the controversy and hype surrounding "Eyes Wide Shut," the film will most likely be remembered as director Stanley Kubrick's last opus -- finished just days before he died in his sleep March 7.
The 70-year-old eccentric filmmaker's career was founded on spectacle, from the shocking "A Clockwork Orange" to the profound "2001: A Space Odyssey." It somehow seemed fitting that "Eyes Wide Shut," despite the star talent of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, would make its mark by bearing the director's ghost.
The year that was marked the passing of other legends, as well -- from George C. Scott (Kubrick's "Dr. Strangelove" star) to singer Mel Tormé to movie critic Gene Siskel.
Some, like Sylvia Sidney and DeForest Kelley, died after long, rich careers; others, such as Dana Plato and David Strickland, succumbed in relative youth to their inner demons.
From marquee names to behind the sceners, Hollywood will mourn:
Kirk Alyn, 88, died March 14. In 1948, the first actor to play Superman on the big screen.
Hoyt Axton, 61, died Oct. 26, heart attack. Singer-actor who wrote hits such as Three Dog Night's "Joy to the World"; appeared in "Gremlins" and "The Black Stallion."
Ian Bannen, 71, died Nov. 3, car accident. Theater veteran who starred in "Waking Ned Devine," appeared in "Braveheart" and was nominated for an Oscar in 1965 for "Flight of the Phoenix."
Mary Kay Bergman, 38, died Nov. 11, suicide. Actress who voiced numerous "South Park" characters in the TV series and film.
Dirk Bogarde, 78, died May 8, heart attack. British veteran of more than 70 films, including "Death in Venice."
Rory Calhoun, 76, died April 28, emphysema and diabetes. Western film actor in the 1940s and '50s and star of CBS' "The Texan" series.
Allan Carr, 62, died June 29, cancer. Producer of the hit 1978 musical "Grease" and Tony Award winner for "La Cage aux Folles" on Broadway.
Iron Eyes Cody, about 90, died Jan 4, natural causes. American American actor best known as the "Crying Indian" in 1970s anti-litter public-service announcements.
Ellen Corby, 87, died April 14. Oscar nominee for the 1948 film "I Remember Mama"; Emmy winner for her grandmother role on TV's "The Waltons."
Harry Crane, 85, died Sept. 14, cancer. Co-created the TV sitcom "The Honeymooners''; wrote for entertainers such as the Marx Brothers, Red Skelton and Bing Crosby.
Charles Crichton, 89, died Sept. 14. Acclaimed British director of film comedies, including "The Lavender Hill Mob" and "A Fish Called Wanda."
Frank De Vol, 88, died Oct. 27, congestive heart failure. Film composer who received Oscar nominations for "Hush ... Hush, Sweet Charlotte," "Pillow Talk" and "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.'' Wrote the theme music for TV's "The Brady Bunch."
Edward Dmytryk, 90, died July 1, heart and kidney failure. Directed films such as "The Caine Mutiny"; one of the blacklisted Hollywood Ten during the 1940s Red Scare.
Allen Funt, 84, died Sept. 5, complications from stroke. Hosted and created prankster TV show "Candid Camera."
Betty Lou Gerson, 84, died Jan. 12, stroke. Provided the voice for villainess Cruella De Vil in Disney's 1961 animated "One Hundred and One Dalmatians."
Ernest Gold, 77, died March 17, complications from stroke. Composer for films such as "It's a Man, Mad, Mad, Mad World"; won an Academy Award for "Exodus."
Sandra Gould, 73, died July 20, stroke. Played nosy neighbor Gladys Kravitz on TV's "Bewitched."
Huntz Hall, 78, died Jan. 30, heart failure. Starred in more than 100 "Dead End Kids" and "Bowery Boys" films in the 1930s through the '50s.
Brion James, 54, died Aug. 7, heart attack. Played the murderous droid Leon in Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner."
Madeline Kahn Madeline Kahn, 57, died Dec. 3, ovarian cancer. Oscar-nominated actress-comedian who starred in "Blazing Saddles" and "Paper Moon."
Garson Kanin, 86, died March 13, heart failure. Oscar-nominated screenwriter ("Adam's Rib," "Pat and Mike"); penned hit play "Born Yesterday." DeForest Kelley
DeForest Kelley, 79, died June 11, long illness. Starred as Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy on TV's original "Star Trek" series and in several of the franchise's big-screen movies.
Richard Kiley, 76, died March 5, bone marrow disease. Actor/singer best known for introducing audiences to original power ballad, "The Impossible Dream," via Broadway's "Man of La Mancha."
Stanley Kubrick, 70, died March 7 in his sleep. Acclaimed director of films such as "Dr. Strangelove," "Spartacus," "2001: A Space Odyssey," "A Clockwork Orange" and "The Shining."
Desmond Llewelyn, 85, died Dec. 19, car accident. British actor who played James Bond's gadget-guru Q through "From Russia With Love" (1963) to "The World Is Not Enough" (1999).
Victor Mature, 86, died Aug. 4, cancer. Hunky star of the 1940s and 50s, with leading roles in "Samson and Delilah" and "My Darling Clementine."
Jay Moloney, 35, died Nov. 16, suicide. Talent agent known as the "boy wonder," who once represented Hollywood heavies such as Steven Spielberg and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Clayton Moore, 85, died Dec. 28, heart attack. Longtime star of TV's "The Lone Ranger."
Dana Plato, 34, died May 8, apparent accidental drug overdose. Former child star of the 1970s sitcom "Diff'rent Strokes."
Abraham Polonsky, 88, died Oct. 26, heart attack. Oscar-nominated screenwriter ("Body and Soul"); one of the blacklisted Hollywood Ten.
Mario Puzo, 78, died July 2, heart failure. Novelist/screenwriter ("The Godfather") who two Oscars for his screenplays for "The Godfather" (1972) and "The Godfather Part II" (1974).
Irving Rapper, 101, died Dec. 20. Golden-era director best known for collaborating with Bette Davis on four films, including "Now, Voyager" (1942).
Oliver Reed, 61, died May 2, apparent heart attack. British actor best known for starring in "Oliver!" and "Women in Love."
Charles "Buddy" Rogers, 94, died April 21, natural causes. Starred in 1927's "Wings," the first film to win the Best Picture Oscar; widower of silent-star Mary Pickford.
George C. Scott George C. Scott, 71, died Sept. 22, ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm. Gruff-voiced leading man who starred in "Dr. Strangelove" and "Anatomy of a Murder." Won (and refused) the Oscar for 1970's "Patton"; won Emmy and Golden Globe for 1997's Showtime film "12 Angry Men."
Sylvia Sidney, 88, died July 1, throat cancer. Veteran actress whose career spanned the 1930s through the 1990s. Nominated for an Oscar for 1973's "Summer Wishes, Winter Dreams." Gene Siskel
Gene Siskel, 53, died Feb. 20, brain tumor. With Roger Ebert, the nation's most influential movie critic and purveyor of the "thumbs up/thumbs down" rating system on their syndicated TV series. Writer for Chicago Tribune.
Susan Strasberg, 60, died Jan. 21, breast cancer. Theater/TV/film actress ("The Diary of Anne Frank"); daughter of famed acting guru Lee Strasberg; cohort of Marilyn Monroe.
David Strickland, 29, died March 23, suicide. Co-star of the NBC sitcom "Suddenly Susan"; played a lovelorn ex-boyfriend in "Forces of Nature" (1999).
Mel Torme, 73, died June 5, complications from stroke. Velvety crooner of jazz and pop, who co-wrote "The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)."
Norman Wexler, 73, died Aug. 23, heart attack. Oscar-nominated screenwriter of "Joe" and "Serpico." Also wrote "Saturday Night Fever" and "Stayin' Alive."
John Woolf, 86, died June 28, heart failure. British producer of "Oliver!" and "The African Queen."