Friday, February 15, 2013

hope springs (no, not the one with meryl streep)

Romantic comedies get a lot of flack, but when they're done right, they can truly be a lot of fun. An example of a nice little rom-com I caught recently on cable is Hope Springs, a 2003 British film directed by Mark Herman (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Brassed Off, Little Voice), and set in a a New England town of Hope, Vermont — one of those quirky little towns populated by friendly eccentrics that only seem to exist in the movies.

A British artist named Colin (Colin Firth), after a traumatic dumping by his long-term fiancee Vera (Minnie Driver), decides to move as far away as he can from the source of his pain, to America. He choses the town of Hope as a good omen of a fresh start in a place with a positive name. He checks into a hotel where the proprietor, Joanie (Mary Steenburgen) thinks she might have just the cure for what ails him — she goes about trying to set him up with her best friend, a home nursing aide named Mandy (Heather Graham). The stuffy Colin is at first put off by the free-spirited Mandy, but the two soon fall for each other and all is hunky-dory until Vera decides that she wants Colin after all and shows up in Hope, determined to get him back.

Colin woos Mandy with a butterfly ring.
"You can't smoke on the golf course."
Being a romantic hero requires some heavy lifting.

Colin tries to describe Vera to Joanie:

Joanie, "And she's English?"
Colin, "Welsh. Well, half Welsh."
Joanie, "Half Welsh and half ..."
Colin, "Monster."

Hope Springs is a very gentle-humored movie — it's main running joke centers around Vera being told by everyone she meets, whether indoors or out, that she can't smoke — but it is all so good-natured that it's hard not to like the film and its cast of characters. Also on hand are Frank Collison (Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Big Year), as Fisher, Joanie's loving husband, and Oliver Platt as Hope's locally ambitious mayor.
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