'Hope Springs' smart, funny and sweet

Cinema audiences are ageing and film companies are gradually ackn

'Hope Springs' smart, funny and sweet

Cinema audiences are ageing and film companies are gradually acknowledging that they can no longer rely on 18- to 24-year-olds to guarantee healthy box office returns.

'The King’s Speech' amassed more than £45m (€56.2m) in the UK because the often-ignored over-50s headed to the multiplexes in their droves; the same crowds, who enthusiastically embraced 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' starring Judi Dench and Maggie Smith.

It’s little wonder that filmmakers are looking for stories that will appeal to older audiences, like Dustin Hoffman’s forthcoming directorial debut 'Quartet', starring Smith and Michael Gambon, set in a retirement home for opera singers.

‘Hope Springs’ will certainly appeal to this flourishing demographic.

David Frankel’s joyful romantic comedy charts the affairs of the heart of a long-time married couple, who are desperate to rediscover the spark that brought them together more than 30 years ago.

The script, penned by Vanessa Taylor, spares few blushes including hilarious scenes of three-times Oscar winner Meryl Streep practising her technique in private on a peeled banana, or attempting to perk up screen husband Tommy Lee Jones with a spontaneous act of giving in an empty cinema.

“The whole situation was just dangerous: all those cupholders, rocking back and forth,” he despairs after the impromptu amorous adventure ends in disappointment.

Arnold Soames (Jones) and his wife Kay (Streep) celebrate their latest wedding anniversary by buying each other cable television subscriptions.

The couple’s children Brad (Ben Rappaport) and Molly (Marin Ireland) sense all is not well, but Arnold appears unconcerned, content to stick to the same routines and sleep in a separate room to his wife.

Kay is deeply unhappy.

“When was the last time you touched me that wasn’t for a picture?” she tearfully asks her spouse.

In desperation, Kay uses her savings to buy a series of intensive couples counselling sessions with Dr Bernie Feld (Steve Carell), who runs the courses from his offices in coastal Maine.

Arnold begrudgingly accompanies Kay but he is reluctant to share his feelings.

After much prodding from Dr Feld, the husband reveals he has always dreamed about a threesome with their neighbour Carol (Mimi Rogers).

It’s a tentative first step towards greater openness that could save the marriage.

‘Hope Springs’ is smart, funny and sweet, underpinned by surprisingly convincing screen chemistry between Streep and Jones, who both bring gravitas and deep emotion to their roles.

Tears flow freely between uproarious set pieces and Carell provides strong support, helping Kay to articulate her deep-rooted fear to her husband: “You don’t want me, you want IT!”

An air of wistfulness drifts over the film as the couple learns to rebuild trust and intimacy, discovering that it’s never too late to fall in love for the second time.

Star Rating 3½

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