On an overseas flight we took recently, we were delighted to catch Meryl Streep’s starrer, “Hope Springs,” in which she plays the wife of Tommy Lee Jones. His character is happy enough in their 30-year union, but she feels that the joy and passion have been leached out of it, and she wants to save it with the help of a marriage counselor (Steve Carell).
Both Streep and Jones turn in convincing and empathetic characterizations, so we’re citing their movie as a fine example of how veteran actors can keep surprising us by creating new characters, and “disappearing” into the roles they play.
Both lead actors have played a veritable gallery of different people in their past starrers, and the new ones they add to their respective filmographies are similarly surprising.
Streep has portrayed all sorts of strong women before, but she plays it tremulous and ineluctably sad this time around.
Her character loves her husband a lot even after three decades of marriage, but he no longer reciprocates her ardor. In fact, it’s been five years since they’ve made love, so she can hardly be blamed for feeling neglected and taken for granted!
For his part, Jones’ character doesn’t know what the fuss is all about! He still loves his wife, but being married to her has become a predictable routine for him, and he’s gotten habituated to it.
So, when his wife finally gets up the nerve to plaintively complain about the cold and predictable relationship their marriage has become, he thinks she’s just being neurotic!
Just the same, to placate her, he finally agrees to consult the counselor, who slowly but surely goads the married couple to confront their unspoken resentments and unfulfilled desires.
It’s a painful process especially for the husband, and he walks out of their sessions a couple of times. Eventually, however, they both decide to bite the bullet to save their fractured marriage. In the process, viewers learn valuable lessons on how they can also admit to and solve their own relationship problems.
The movie is well-scripted, but what really makes it an absorbing viewing experience are its veteran leads’ insightful portrayals.
It takes vast experience and great sensitivity to come up with such delicate and yet vivid characterizations, so we celebrate and congratulate “oldies but golden goodies” like Streep and Jones for creating them.
In the same vein, we’re looking forward to catching another film, “Parental Guidance” (on Jan. 16), with similarly experienced top billing. Billy Crystal and Bette Midler act together for the first time, playing parents and grandparents, in a domestic family comedy that is billed as “a depiction of the clashing parenting styles between the generations.”
Midler and Crystal are enormously experienced comedians, so we can expect them to perk up the movie with their antics and punch lines. In the film, they’re tasked to take care of their grandchildren whose parents are on vacation, so we can look forward to a lot of “cross-generational” comedy, to boot.
Contrastingly, on local TV-film screens, youth is held up as a premium, while age is regarded as a liability. In worshipping youth above all else, we’re depriving ourselves of a lot of the passion, power and “juicy” characters and acting moxie that only mature performers can give.
Let’s give our homegrown “golden” screen icons like Ronaldo Valdez, Pilar Pilapil and Tirso Cruz III their own time to shine again—and again!