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.
Top Story: Farrelly Brothers Take on Stooges
Peter and Bobby Farrelly, the filmmaking duo behind the comedies Dumb & Dumber, There's Something About Mary and Osmosis Jones, have been tapped to helm The Three Stooges for Warner Bros. According to Variety, the adventure pic will revolve around the Stooges characters originated by Moe Howard, Larry Fine and Jerome "Curly" Howard. The Farrelly siblings spent last winter and spring writing an updated script with Me, Myself and Irene scribe Mike Cerrone. The Three Stooges will provide Warners with a high-profile comedy-something that the studio hasn't had in several years. The comedy is expected to start shooting early next year for a summer 2005 release.
TBS To Air Sex Reruns Next Summer
HBO has sold reruns of its hit series Sex and the City to TBS for a licensing fee of $450,000 for each of the 94 half-hours. TBS will get the show in June 2004--15 months before it is kicked off in syndication on the Tribune-owned TV stations. TBS plans to air episodes four times a week in primetime, probably one hour a night over two nights in mid-week, Variety reports. But since the show will run in primetime rather than in the early evening, the network will be able to run episodes that are less edited than for TV syndication
Woman Pleads Guilty To Stalking Jennifer Love Hewitt
A 47-year-old woman from the San Diego, Calif., suburb of La Mesa, pleaded guilty Monday to stalking Party of Five actress Jennifer Love Hewitt, Reuters reports. Diana Napolis, who was diagnosed as delusional but was found competent to stand trial, pleaded guilty to felony stalking in exchange for the dismissal of five other charges. Napolis first threatened Hewitt, 24, outside a San Diego radio station, then continued trying to contact the actress in Los Angeles and via e-mail between July 29 and Nov. 3 of last year. She faces up to three years in prison when she is sentenced next month.
Jennifer Aniston's Dress Fetches $4,100 on eBay
The midnight blue, knee-length dress that Jennifer Aniston wore to the 55th annual Primetime Emmy Awards last Sunday attracted bids of more than $4,100 in a charity auction Monday, Reuters reports. Aniston's dress was the top-priced item in eBay's online auction, which closes Wednesday. Proceeds from the "Clothes Off Our Back" benefit, co-created by Malcolm in the Middle star Jane Kaczmarek, will go to Cure Autism Now and the Union of Concerned Scientists. Last year, the "Clothes Off Our Back" project auctioned off Emmy outfits from about 20 celebrities and raised more than $87,000.
Hope Inducted Into Officer Hall of Fame
Bob Hope, who died July 28 of pneumonia at his Toluca Lake, Calif., home at the age of 100, was inducted posthumously into the Reserve Officers Association Minuteman Hall of Fame for his 50 years of entertaining military troops overseas, the AP reports. His son Kelly accepted the award at Saturday's ceremony, saying his father took his show on the road to thank the troops for their efforts in defending freedom. Hope's traditional Christmas tours began in 1948, when he went to Berlin to entertain soldiers, and lasted through 1990, when he visited the troops during Operation Desert Shield. Other famous honorees include President George W. Bush and former presidents John F. Kennedy and Harry S. Truman.
"Dr. Feelgood" Pleads No Contest
A doctor who allegedly overprescribed narcotics to celebrity clients such as Winona Ryder pleaded no contest Monday to charges of grand theft and practicing medicine without a license, The Associated Press reports. Dr. Jules Lusman, who had his license revoked last year by California's medical board, entered the plea to two charges in exchange for the dismissal of six others by prosecutors. The charges stem from a complaint by a woman who said she went to Lusman in March for a cosmetic procedure similar to a Botox injection. She claims Lusman refused to help her or return her $600 fee after large bumps developed around her eyes. Ryder, who according to her probation report had who had 37 prescriptions filled by 20 doctors from 1996 to 1998, was one of the celebs medical investigators found to be connected to Lusman.
Cirque du Soleil Strips Down ... to G-Strings
Cirque du Soleil has launched a new erotic act in Las Vegas titled "Zumanity," in which troupes strip down to G-strings, caress each other as they swim in a fish bowl and indulge in lingering kisses while a drag queen cabaret singer croons, "Sex is beautiful." Billed as "another side of Cirque du Soleil, the act must compete with two other Cirque du Soleil shows and a third one in the works, but audiences are pouring in nonetheless. According to Reuters, the two nightly performances over the last month have helped raise casino revenue by 30 to 40 percent.
Role Call: Sandler's Happy Madison Gets Fat
Columbia Pictures is shelling out a $675,000 guarantee against potential seven figures for Fat Man, a spec script by Simpsons scribe Mike Reiss about an 800-pound man who drops 600 pounds with the help of a nurse he finds more appealing than a Happy Meal, Variety reports. Adam Sandler's Happy Madison banner will produce but reps for the comedian say the odds are slim that the he will do anything more than produce.