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The first bunch of reviews for next week’s “Hope Springs” have been added by the leading film publications. Please note that some reveal more details about the plot. First there’s Variety, calling the film “an altogether pleasant surprise: a mainstream dramedy that frankly and intelligently addresses the challenges facing a couple after 31 years of marriage. Sony should have no trouble enticing older audiences, and upbeat word of mouth could confer sleeper-hit status.”
Tackling one of the most deceptively ordinary roles she’s had in a while (and a complete departure from her dazzling star turn in “Prada”), Streep dons owlish specs and speaks at a higher pitch than usual, imbuing Kay with the nervous, birdlike energy of a woman not entirely comfortable in her own skin. And Jones, a scowling mass of hostility and avoidance, owns the picture; Kay may have sympathy on her side, but it’s Arnold who undergoes the more significant transformation, something Jones manages without compromising the character’s splenetic temperament.
According to Screen International, “Hope Springs” is an odd but often very effective mix of mainstream romantic comedy and surprisingly hard-hitting – for a summer studio release – romantic drama. Though it won’t be easy to market, the film could strike a chord with the older demographic that has recently shown a willingness to turn out for relevant material featuring prestigious talent.
While both leads make excellent use of their ample screen time, Jones is particularly impressive as the distant yet regretful Arnold. The performance should help broaden the film’s audience to include men as well as women; and it might even be remembered next awards season.
And the Hollywood Reporter calls the film a “more comedic drama than midlife romantic comedy, rather literally titled Hope Springs holds few surprises but delivers plenty of warmth. As endless fodder for pop-psychology publications and mid-afternoon TV shows, the topic of promoting passion and intimacy in long-term relationships holds a particular place not only in the current cultural zeitgeist, but also in the lives of millions of Americans, perhaps especially those attaining and surpassing middle age.
Streep’s performance is a winning mix of vulnerability and determination as she at first tries to understand her husband’s indifference and then works to convince him to help reignite their romantic spark. Several scenes where she attempts to reassert sexual intimacy with Arnold are both heartbreaking and hilarious, particularly a risqué rendezvous in a darkened, quiet theater where her unpracticed technique goes wrong in too many different ways.
Fans can make their own opinion next week, when “Hope Springs” releases US theaters on August 08.