When I find myself enjoying a romantic comedy, it's usually because I can relate to the characters, who are all likable to some degree. Just like I would want the hero to catch the bad guy in an action flick, so I'd like the guy to get the girl in a good romantic comedy. Watching Hope Springs I found myself liking the lead character, Colin Ware (Colin Firth), but neither of the leading ladies, so I actually found myself hoping he'd stay single.
Hope Springs is based on the novel New Cardiff by Charles Webb, the author who wrote the novel, The Graduate. Unlike the quirkiness of that film, the supposedly odd and interesting characters in this film never really reach beyond cardboard cutouts of themselves. They don't seem real. Instead, it's as if they are quirky just to be different.
See, Colin finds out that his fiancée (Vera, played by Minnie Driver) is about to marry another man. So Colin flees for a small town in New England called Hope. There, he finds Mandy (Heather Graham), a spirited woman who is essentially Vera's opposite. Naturally, he falls in love.
The premise alone is fine. We've all seen stories like this many times before. But the problems arise when we get to know Vera, who hunts him down and tries to get him to forgive her. The reason this doesn't work is because, well, plainly put, Vera is a bitch. I never could figure out why a nice guy like Colin would bother with the likes of her. Furthermore, if Colin is indeed in love with Mandy, why does he never prove it by getting rid of Vera? I guess there would be no antagonist and thus no film if that were to happen, but it just doesn't make a lot of sense.
The Mandy character presents another problem. She's definitely free spirited, which would be lovable to a man in Colin's shoes, but there are few, if any, scenes in which the two share any intimacy. Her carefree attitude shines through and through, but when did Colin find time to fall in love? It's not presented here as clearly as it needs to be, so it seems a bit forced.
Hope Springs appears to be a film that will be hit or miss with its audiences. I for one didn't think the leading ladies were worthy of his love, and thus the film fell flat for me. Other viewers might feel differently. Still, there's nothing here that really bucks the trend of most Hollywood romantic comedies, and there are plenty of sure winners out there to choose from.
Touchstone Home Entertainment presents Hope Springs in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This transfer is essential exactly what I expected it to be: adequate, but not outstanding. The colors are bright and vibrant, and the fall colors of the landscapes really stand out. The detail is sharp throughout as well. Some of the darker scenes are a bit too dark and the detail doesn't always reach too far into the shadows.
As with the video, this audio presentation is fine, but nothing that'll blow you away. All that really needs to come through clearly are the voices and the music, both of which sound great here. Generally, voices are clear and well centered, and the clarity of the music is a high point. I must point out, however, that the entire film I sounds a little soft. I had to increase the volume beyond my normal set up to clearly hear all dialog, but once I found a nice fit, it all came across fine.
The film is also presented in Dolby Surround French track with subtitles in Spanish.
THE BONUS FEATURES
Not much here, but that's not surprising. The Making of Hope Springs featurette is nothing out of the ordinary. It's just a full frame behind the scenes look at the film with a few clips of rolling cameras and plenty of cast interviews. Some might call it a marketing tool.
You also get trailers for Raising Helen, Calendar Girls, the Soap Network, and Hope & Faith.
A romantic comedy relies on enjoyable characters. Unfortunately, I never found myself liking anyone other than the main character, Colin Ware. It's probably worth a rental if you have a romantic night set up with your significant other, but you might want to have a backup DVD in case this one sours to your taste.