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Hope Springs

Year: 2012
Studio: Lionsgate
Director: David Frankel
Writer: Vanessa Taylor
Cast: Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, Steve Carell, Elizabeth Shue, Mimi Rogers

Something's happened to Meryl Streep. Nothing bad, mind you, it just seems that sometime around ten years back she decided life should be more fun. She's proven more than once she's a gifted comic as well as dramatic actress (doing so as far back as Death Becomes Her) but today she's balancing the Oscar-bait she's always been good at like The Iron Lady with feel-good comedy like It's Complicated and Mamma Mia.

That's a good thing – a performer of her calibre frequently lifts the material. It gave It's Complicated the depth and gravity of realism where the concept could have resulted in a circus act full of clowns.

And she does the best she can here even though the material fails her. She plays buttoned-down housewife Kay, married to straight-laced Arnold (Jones), all the passion having long disintegrated from their marriage and making it merely amicable.

Kay decides she's had enough and checks them both into the intense therapy of a renowned marriage counsellor (Carell, playing it completely straight) where they proceed to pick over the embarrassing, shameful and painful details of how they've settled into such a passion-free rut.

On the upside, it's very knowing about how romance can die so easily in a modern western marriage and while Jones is a little stiff and one-note (although to be fair, he's meant to be), Streep brings her formidable talent to bear, conveying a whole inner mental or emotional state with only the twitch of a facial muscle.

But there are way too many scene-setting romantic rock ballads and the dramatic beats needed to be way smarter and subtler. It's not exactly telegraphed but there are few moments where you feel any real sense of risk.

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