Hope Springs (12A)


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The Independent Culture

David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada) reunites with Meryl Streep in a brave comedy of marital blues. Brave? Well, you try pitching a story about late-middle-age dysfunction to a Hollywood studio.

Streep plays wistful, put-upon Kay, whose 30-year marriage to Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) has lost its savour: she cooks and cleans for him, he watches the Golf Channel, sleeps in a separate bedroom and grumbles about the pennies (he's an accountant). Her solution is to book them a trip to Maine and a week of "intensive" couple-counselling with marriage expert Dr Feld (Steve Carell).

What proceeds isn't exactly a laugh-riot – too painful for that – but it does offer a masterclass in less-is-more acting. Jones is great at conveying the close-mouthed exasperation of a man to whom talk of "intimacy" is torture; his whole body seems to cringe.

Streep is even better in the body-language department, fiddling with her clothes, staring dead-ahead in embarrassment, trying out a "come-hither" look. She's also touching as a woman who refuses to let age excuse a loss of passion. Steve Carell is gracious in the part of straight man.

As a comedy it won't find much favour with cinema-goers under the age of 40, but for everyone else there's plenty to chuckle at.