I hate to see Colin Firth in misery. However, no one projects unhappiness more convincingly on screen than this handsome British actor. In Hope Springs, Firth plays an artist trying to find refuge in a small Vermont town called Hope. He's run away from England after his longtime girlfriend broke off their engagement. Although he wants to be miserable all by himself, the eccentric people of Hope have other plans for him, and it's a treat to watch how they bring the depressed artist out of his funk.
Heather Graham (Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me) portrays the main "caregiver." She knows what it's like to be dumped, so she works her kooky magic on Firth by taking him for wild rides, helping him find interesting faces to sketch, and teaching him the joys of innocent disrobing. As soon as these two fall in love, Minnie Driver (Good Will Hunting), Firth's beautiful ex-girlfriend, shows up in Hope with plans to take him back to England. Ah yes, the eternal triangle!
Firth (Love Actually) admits in his DVD commentary that he enjoyed being fought over by two beautiful women. "I'm usually in films where two men are vying over one woman -- and I lose the girl to someone with the last name of Fiennes," he quips.
Other Hope townspeople who play a key role in Firth's recovery are played by Mary Steenburgen (Sunshine State) and Oliver Platt (Simon Birch). Platt is very funny as the ambitious mayor; Steenburgen delivers a gem of a supporting performance as a nosy hotel owner who has her guest's best interest at heart.
Based on the novel New Cardiff by Charles Webb, Hope Springs is written and directed by Mark Herman, one of my favorite filmmakers. There's something so touching about his movies. Brassed Off and Little Voice will always have a place in my heart. Although Hope Springs isn't Herman's best film (that's Little Voice, in my opinion), it's a wonderful romantic comedy with an uplifting message about love and hope.
In the DVD bonus feature, "The Making of Hope Springs," cast members talk candidly about their reactions to Herman's directorial techniques. Evidently, he's not very effusive, so even a raised eyebrow is appreciated. When Steenburgen received a thumbs-up for one scene, she could hardly believe her eyes. Nevertheless, I have to confess that while watching this bonus feature, my greatest pleasure came from seeing Colin Firth as himself. He's even more witty and charming than I expected. Sigh.
(Released by Touchstone Home Entertainment and rated "PG-13" for sexual content and language. Bonus DVD material unrated.)