suppose it's hard to go wrong with a Romantic Comedy. The
conventions of the genre are so firmly established, and all the archetypes
etched into stone, that it takes a really bad director, bad actors, and a truly
awful script to miss the mark completely. And while "Hope Springs" is
nothing to write home about, one supposes that in a lot of ways it could be
worst. Then again, if you expected more than what you got from the movie,
methinks one doth protests too much. Why watch a Romantic Comedy at all, if not
to see conventions play out? God knows they're not much use for anything else.
The film stars Colin Firth ("What
a Girl Wants") as Colin Ware, a heartbroken British artist who finds
himself in Hope, a small town in Vermont, America, after his fiancée (Minnie
Driver) dumps him for another man. In Hope, Colin finds renewed vigor when he
meets the cute as a button Mandy (Heather Graham), and the two inevitably fall
in love. But just as inevitably, Driver's Vera appears in Hope to break up the
happy days any way she can, but of course by movie's end Colin will have chosen
the right girl.
After all, this is a Romantic Comedy. What did you expect?
Edge? Grit? Get a grip.
"Hope Springs" was directed by Englishman Mark
Off") from a novel called "New Cardiff" by Charles Webb, who
also penned the seminal Coming of Age novel "The
Graduate". It goes without saying that "Springs" is not in
the class of the other movie adaptation, or even on the same campus for that
matter. There is nothing here that will surprise you and in fact lead Heather
Graham, prone to going naked, goes naked here once again. But since the movie is
rated PG-13, we never see any actual nudity. (For those with personal interests
in seeing the lovely Ms. Graham in her natural glory, I recommend the Erotic
Me Softly", a movie that has absolutely nothing to offer but
As with all movies about small towns, the town of Hope is
filled with eccentric characters with their own little quirks and baffling
personalities. The notables include Mary Steenburgen ("I
Am Sam") as the spirited manager of the hotel where Colin stays and
Oliver Platt ("Lake
Placid") as the ambitious town mayor. Platt's character has the most
fun, but sadly he's not onscreen often enough. For the most part
"Springs" doesn't do its comedy with any superlative success and there
are few laughs to be found throughout the film. There are smile-worthy moments,
of course, but nothing to get overly excited about.
As with the Reese Witherspoon small-town Romantic Comedy
Alabama", villain Minnie Driver ("Good
Will Hunting") is actually not all that villainous. In the service of
taking Colin away from Mandy, Driver's Vera does a lot of lying and
manipulating, but on the whole the character doesn't come across as all that
bad. Even her infidelity to Colin is revealed to be not all it seems. Perhaps
there's a trend here -- to stay within the confines of the Romantic Comedy, but
to take little detours here and there. I suppose anything's possible.
If there's one thing I wish "Hope Springs" did
more of, it's extend the running time and take in more of the Vermont scenery.
The film was shot in just the right time and place, and the falling leaves of
our east coast neighbor are, in a word, gorgeous. Unfortunately director Herman
seems not to share my love of nature, thus most of Vermont's background gets
shortchanged. Also, the film feels a bit incomplete, almost as if it was too
heavily chopped up to provide supposedly better pacing. Clocking in at just 85
minutes of actual running length, "Springs" really should have been
longer. Not a lot longer, but enough to do justice to the town and its
There is nothing about "Hope Springs" that is
especially good, I'm afraid. It's barely a middle-of-the-road movie that
benefits from three attractive stars. Then again, there's something to be said
about a film that is completely lacking in mean-spiritedness, and instead exudes
a rampant carefree spirit, which "Springs" does.
As the saying goes, take it for what you will.