HOPE SPRINGS (David Frankel). 100 minutes. Now playing. For venues and times, see Movies. Rating: NN
A romantic drama about a woman desperate to reignite her relationship with her emotionally remote husband starring Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones sounds like it can't miss, right?
Streep can play this sort of role in her sleep, and if there's anyone who's cornered the market on "emotionally remote," it's Jones. More often than not, the guy looks like he doesn't even want to be on screen.
But instead of a master class in acting by two American icons, Hope Springs is a messy, clumsy attempt to turn serious material into a trifling entertainment. Every scene is soundtracked with pop songs that tell us how to feel; the choppy cuts within scenes and the near absence of supporting characters suggest some heavy editing in post-production.
Screenwriter Vanessa Taylor's resumé includes two episodes of the wrenching HBO series Tell Me You Love Me, so this might have started out as a heavier project. And Steve Carell is a nice choice to play a marriage counsellor; he's patient and kind, gently nudging his clients to small epiphanies.
But director David Frankel, who enabled Streep's fine comic turn in The Devil Wears Prada, is way out of his depth here, unable to put his stars on the same wavelength. Streep's natural lightness clashes with Jones's darker instincts, and they come at their scenes at cross purposes.
I'm sure a different director could have got them working together; I'm also sure Frankel never even tried. What a waste.