Hope Springs Blu-ray Review
There’s certainly nothing new about relationship dramas. The genre is as old as the art of film itself. But what has become a growing trend is writing that delves deeper into the types of relationships that would usually be considered “unsexy” by normal Hollywood standards. Fortunately for the sake of audiences with a more refined palate, producers’ definition of “sexy” is whatever will fill seats in theaters and turn on DVD players at home.
HOPE SPRINGS shines a bright light on the seldom celebrated trials and tribulations of a mature relationship. And not some light-hearted, feel-good, grandma and grandpa get frisky and push the twin beds together type of comedy either. This film is brutally honest and explores all facets of what happens to a couple when they stop trying to be husband and wife and instead turn into roommates that eat dinner together.
Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) have been married for over 30 years. Arnold is a partner at an accounting firm and his life has become just like the numbers he deals with every day, routine. Kay starts to realize that she is an unwilling partner in Arnold’s routine and begins to make efforts to rekindle their marriage. When Arnold shows no intention to reciprocate, Kay turns to an intense marriage counseling program run by Dr. Feld (Steve Carell) as a last-ditch hope to save their relationship.
Even with the incomparable acting of its main stars, HOPE SPRINGS is not an easy watch. In fact, it’s those immersed performances that fuels the seemingly bottomless tank of “uncomfortable” throughout the film. Not just because of the brazen approach towards exploring an older couple’s sexuality, but mostly due to the overflowing cup of tension Kay and Arnold serve one another in their day-to-day interactions. The script for this film is very good, but its architecture is contingent on nothing less than stellar character portrayals.
How many more synonyms for “great” are there left in any human language to describe Meryl Streep? Even walking around as a titan of her craft, she never stretches outside of the present character she embodies. It’s as if Streep is not just playing her role, but remembering something from a past life of who she used to be. Perhaps even more impressive than any fashion mogul, famous cook or British prime minister she’s ever played, Streep is able to implore the necessary docile and meek stature essential to facilitate an accurate parallel with real-life women in Kay’s exact situation.
As for Streep’s counterpart, Tommy Lee Jones has taken over the mantle left by Walter Matthau as the go-to grouch. Jones is a lot more versatile than most of his characters’ short quip and off color personalities, but fortunately with Arnold he is able to showcase his full spectrum of talents by playing off his popular typecast. Jones is able to equal Streep’s efforts by demonstrating how even the most stubborn of personalities can be “scared straight” by the aspect of losing the one thing he truly loves above anything else, and he does it without compromising the character’s integrity.
Rounding out the small play-like cast is Steve Carell as Dr. Feld. A very unconventional role for Carell, not only because he plays the “straight man” to Streep and Jones, but because there is hardly enough comedy to warrant one. Dr. Feld is simply there to facilitate the great dialogue between Kay and Arnold, but it’s not an easy task to hold your own in any fashion with two Oscar winners of this caliber. However, Carell is able to do just that by utilizing the same calming demeanor that facilitates most of his comedic timing, just without the punch lines.
No matter what kind of relationship you’re currently in or how long you’ve been in it, HOPE SPRINGS will either compel you to analyze the aspects that need to be addressed or cherish the things you take for granted. And probably in most cases, both.
Video: 1.85:1 Widescreen, 1080p/AVC MPEG-4: The video quality is very crisp and clean, strong detail and sharpness but it avoids the extreme “pop” by utilizing a very fine layer of grain which keeps the colors smooth. The landscape scenes especially stand out with great contrast.
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1: The audio does exactly what it needs to in a film like this. Front loaded with strong emphasis on the dialogue while the score and soundtrack are very well mixed without any interference.
Commentary with Director David Frankel: Frankel has a very relaxed delivery with his commentary, which fits the subject matter of the film. He gives a lot of insight into the creative process and how the film was almost rated R. It’s an easy listen throughout and actually much more interesting than one would think, given the pace of the film.
Gag Reel (5 min): Always better than the deleted scenes but this one has way too much editing involved. Although it’s still comforting to see that even legends like Streep and Jones make mistakes.
Alternate Takes Gallery (18 min): Another superior alternative to deleted scenes. Multiple takes of the same scene, but with complete improvisations from the performers. This really showcased how talented actors like Streep and even Carell really are.
Inside the Perfect Movie Marriage: Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones (4 min): A featurette that analyzes Streep and Jones’ chemistry on set and some “he said, she said” psychology.
An Intimate Look at Making “Hope Springs” (12 min): The cast and crew discuss the film’s themes and the great creative atmosphere for the actors made possible by director David Frankel. A good piece that really sells how a set takes on the personality of its director.
An Expert’s Guide to Everlasting Passion (7 min): A real-life psychotherapist analyzes the character’s relationship and how it pertains to everyday people. This can be a little long winded if you’re not into psychology, but if it is of interest then this featurette will be fascinating.
The Passionate Performer (7 min): A sizzle real for one of the greatest actors of all time, Meryl Streep. No surprise here, everyone has nothing but amazing things to say about here. Still, it’s always entertaining to watch a retrospective on an amazing career.
The Doctor is In: Steve Carell on Dr. Feld (4 min): Carell talks about his character in the film and the methods he uses on the main characters. He also speaks about how the comedy in the film is unconventional.