Thursday, 13 September 2012


What happens when an unstoppable force (Meryl Streep’s unbridled optimism) meets an immovable object (Tommy Lee Jones’ craggy scowl)? Well, they go to marriage counselling and seek to repair years of damage to their emotions and libido.
The film’s biggest strength lies in the fact that it’s very much a two-hander. It’s absolutely Streep and Jones’ film and both actors are more than game. It’s solidly structured around these two with only one significant supporting actor in the form of Steve Carell’s therapist. As such it doesn’t feel cluttered and eschews unnecessary comic relief.
It’s relatively gentle humour in spite of broaching the subject of sex matter-of-factly but it plays to the actors’ strengths. The set pieces are fun but never at the expense of characterisation. Jones’ guttural growl when faced with uncomfortable situations is always pleasing and Streep takes charge of the film’s more heightened moments with seemingly effortless panache.
It’s warmly natural, touchingly tender and occasionally very funny. It’s not quite as predictable as you might expect and character expectations are sensitively subverted. The progression feels balanced and fair; it’s not a battle of the sexes. It walks the fine line between schmaltz and melodrama (in the best possible way) while managing a few barbs but doesn’t resort to comedy of embarrassment tropes.
It has a lot to say about relationships and how, without noticing, they drift into monotony and need reassessing – especially as years turn to decades. It might not be breaking new ground but they’re resonant themes and it’s refreshing to see sex approached in a way that isn’t puerile or throwaway.
Unfortunately it’s slightly marred by a jarringly fast wrap up and an ill-suited punchline (that strangely chimes with similar problems in the last act of Take This Waltz) but there’s plenty to admire in the thoughtful restraint of this post-middle age comedy-drama.

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