Movie Review by Toby White
Starring: Colin Firth, Heather Graham, Minnie Driver, Oliver Platt, Mary Steenbergen
Director: Mark Herman
It was while Colin Firth and producer Barnaby Thompson were working on The Importance of Being Earnest Firth mentioned the book ‘New Cardiff’ (by ‘The Graduate’ writer, Charles Webb) that was recommended to him and was considering acquiring the rights to. Coincidentally, Thompson already had the rights and shared Firth’s enthusiasm for the book…and one thing led to another. The reason for this exposition is to stress the importance of story and script in any movie and, with this collective enthusiasm for the book, it would stand to reason that a good movie would not be far off.
As romantic comedies go, HOPE SPRINGS is stock material. Artist Colin (Firth) is jilted by his fiancee, Vera (Driver), and embarks to small town America for solace where he meets the effervescent Mandy (Graham) and discovers a youthful exuberance he’d previously lost. Trouble is, the scheming Vera is really not that far away. It’s classic love triangle romcom… except it isn’t. Classic, that is. Which begs the question; if the book is so good that Firth and Thompson and, later, Mark Herman who directed and adapted it into a screenplay, shared enthusiasm for it, how could it be so flat in it’s translation to the screen?
In a word, it’s laborious. Each scene seems overly long and, not that it’s predictable, but you get the feeling that you know what’s coming and you just want to urge it forward to the next funny bit. And it is funny in places, although largely due to the acerbic English witticisms of Minnie Driver and Colin Firth. The Americans do a fine job too; Oliver Platt is as bumptious as ever as the mayor of Hope – though I must point out that the subplot of he and Firth’s scheming really seems incongruous – and Heather Graham, as love interest Mandy, although playing to type puts in a genuinely poignant performance.
Do excuse the obvious ambivalence towards this film but I really can’t make up my mind about it. There just seems to be something bland about HOPE SPRINGS… perhaps its something to do with the fact that it rained virtually the entire 45 day shoot. It’s chuckle funny, but not laugh out loud funny. It’s comfortable but not captivating. It’s the kind of film you can take home to meet your mother but it won’t get you excited. As such, with no effort to resist the pun whatsoever, I would have called it Hope Sinks. Or Dope Springs. Or something.