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The Feelbad Film of the Year - Blu Ray Review,
This review is from: Hope Springs (2012) [DVD] (DVD)
Fed up with the rut of suffocating mid life mediocrity her marriage is stuck in Kay books a week with a couples specialist in Maine for herself & crotchety husband Arnold.
Once there they must struggle with their inhibitions and years of reserve in order to reignite the love they once shared.
As usual Hollywood doesn't know what to do with something well written & serious so this is sold as some sort of romantic comedy. It's not.
There are funny moments but they are subtle and tinged with remorse and pain.
That this works at all is largely thanks to a chemistry between Streep & Jones that works beautifully. They portray two people who have grown 'comfortable' with each other & have allowed the spark to go out of the marriage. They are the epitome of 'going through the motions'.
Kay is willing to try & open up but Arnold see's no reason for change and dismisses the whole week as a waste of time & money.
As a tight fisted grouch Tommy-Lee Jones is pitch perfect. No over acting, a subtle scowl or barely heard remark are often enough to show his displeasure while Meryl Streeps Kay is desperate to see improvement and Streep portrays her pain & frustration with a fragility that is very moving. Beneath the submissive surface though lies a determination that slowly highlights that if she & Arnold fail here she may well be prepared to reconsider her future.
As the therapist Steve Carell plays it totally straight. Absolutely no humour and a quietly spoken catalyst for change.
This avoids just about every feel good movie trope there is, no gags or lazy jokes, virtually no one else but the three main characters, no rushing around to take in every bit of scenery. In fact it is only the well placed use of music that reflects anything of the usual romcom menu.
Alongside the first class acting is tight, unindulgent directing & a superb script that will have no few couples 'of a certain age' shifting uncomfortably in our seats. It's just so easy to head off down this road and very difficult to find your way back. The pain involved is laid bare and as the final reel begins you really don't know if Kay b& Arnold are going to make it.
The Blu-Ray picture is crisp and lifelike. The sound is well focused on the centre so that speech is crystal clear and Arnolds grumbling is easier to make out. The odd musical overlay can be a bit loud but it doesn't compete with dialogue so doesn't really matter.
The extra's are fine & include the obligatory commentary, a pleasant enough gag reel a quick interview with a couples therapist, ( had he been included on the commentary then it could have been worth a listen), Steve cCarrell being a bit unfunny & Streep & Jones looking uncomfortable while eulogising about one another.
This should have been just another unfunny comedy, it should have been neither as realistic nor as painful and surely the pairing of Streep & Jones the daftest casting choice for ages? Instead it all works & so we have one of 2012's best movies that went by virtually unnoticed. A real beauty that I suspect will become something of a cult classic amongst it's fans in years to come.
Not sure if the Blu-Ray is necessary? There's no spectacular visuals to get worked up about & the sound is 99% dialogue. The extra's are nice to have but hardly groundbreaking.
Whatever format you choose doesn't really matter. This rates as among the very best work either actor has done and it's documentary like approach to a marriage on the edge of disaster/ redemption is Impeccably observed & while hardly feelgood stuff, an acting masterclass.