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Hope Springs (2004)

Reviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 04/21/04 18:41:56

"Romantic movie 101, lesson #1: Include some actual romance."
2 stars (Pretty Bad)

I could sum this film up in one word... "duh." Romantic staple Colin Firth was there from the concept stage, Heather Graham and Minnie Driver were considered at least decent draws, and writer/director Mark Herman had helmed small critical successes such as Little Voice and Brassed off previously. So what went wrong? From what I can tell, it's as if the makers figured that they had a slam dunk from the outset, which saved everyone the bother of actually trying to make the damn thing matter.

Colin Firth is rapidly becoming his very own cliche. Ever since he bobbed up in Pride and Prejudice as Mr Darcy, he's been the go-to guy for gush. Whenever you want to make a romantic film, be it comedy or drama, you go to Mr Darcy. Whenever you need a tall, dark and stoic man who doesn't quite know how to give in to his feelings, you go to Mr Darcy. And whenever you need someone who'll make the weak-minded women in the crowd go 'aww' simply by turning up, you go to Mr Darcy.

Frankly, the whole Darcy phenomenon is getting a little old. And it would seem that the man himself is beginning to feel the same way. How else could you explain the utter lack of enthusiasm, interest and life present in Colin Firth's most recent performance?

He doesn't amble through this film, he practically inches through it, having essentially not a single trick left in the book that we haven't seen a thousand times already.

His deal this time is he's an artist who has fled the scene of a nasty break-up and gone halfway around the world to a small American town called Hope. While there (actually, within the first four minutes of being there) he meets Mandy (Heather Graham), a beautiful blonde who tries to seduce him within eight minutes, drinks half a bottle of malt liquor within twelve minutes, and then strips naked within fifteen minutes. So of course, she'd be our romantic female lead. You know, the one we're supposed to empathiize with.

Thankfully, her drunken spell lasts precise two minutes and our hero, who is supposed to be pining his great long lost love, decides to have sex with her a couple of minutes after that, so basically everyone involved is... how can I say this nicely ...Retarded.

Then along comes the long lost love, Vera (Minnie Driver), who was only kidding when she sent her fiancee a wedding invitation with another guy's name on it. She just wanted to make remiind him that he hadn't yet set a date.... nice move, huh? And also entirely illogical.

Which is the essence of this movie as a whole. Entirely illogical from satrt to finish, with a minimal amount of humor, the occasional piece of almost romance, and the undying question that all who see the film must ask - "Weren't these people all A-list once?"

I've always liked Minnie Driver, even when she was going through her 'Matt Damon stalker' phase. In my opinion she's funny, talented, and a lot better then the roles she's been taking over the last five years, but this is the pits in terms of script selection for her.

Heather Graham is in much the same boat, only her bad decisions stem from her predilection for any film in which she's supposed to get naked. Not that I mind Heather Graham getting naked (and there's plenty of it here), but really she should be looking for something that highlights parts of her repertoire that won't be sagging in a year or two.

Hope Springs went straight to video after being savaged by critics and audiences in the UK, and that's about where it belongs. It certainly isn't the worst film you'll see (that would be The Whole Ten Yards), but in terms of realized potential, the participants in this flick are the cinematic equivalent of the Cincinnati Reds; they may have been good once, but those days are long gone, and only getting harder to remember each time they take the field.

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