Every struggling young writer (1) has been told "write what you know," despite a digital library's worth of contradictory evidence. Stephen Crane never went to war. Ray Bradbury never went to space. Dante, as far as we know, never went to hell. And Vanessa Taylor has never been married.
Still, her debut feature screenplay (2) is for "Hope Springs," which stars Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones. They play partners in an atrophied relationship: Kay (Streep) is gentle but fed up (3) , tired of a life that's not just sexless but affection free. Arnold (Jones) has withdrawn (4) into work and golf, his profound silences suggesting a fossilized soul. Only when Kay delivers an ultimatum does Arnold agree, begrudgingly (5), to travel to Maine from Nebraska to consult a celebrated couples counselor, Dr. Feld (Steve Carell). Arnold packs his toothbrush (6), and his unhappiness.
It's safe to say that a movie like "Hope Springs" runs counter to (7) the popcorn-and-adrenaline ethos of the multiplex and a marketplace that never seems to have enough room for "mature" movies. It also asks whether those movies need to be made by "mature" people. Taylor, who is in her 30s and said her characters are "about the age of my parents" - who divorced when she was 4 - said she didn't intend to write about "older people's problems." Reached by phone in Northern Ireland, where she is working as a writer and co-executive producer on "Game of Thrones," she said "Hope Springs" arose from her own life.
"What if distance creeps (8) into a relationship?" she asked. "Can you ever get back across? Or is it done? I was having trouble maintaining relationships. They'd get to a point, and distance would happen, and it kept happening over and over. I was trying to explore what you can do to heal (9) those broken relationships, writing about it, and saying, 'Let's see if I can even imagine it."'
For the director, David Frankel, the script had universal appeal (10).
"I read it, and I felt, 'Everybody gets it,"' he said. "Every teenager thinks everyone else is having more sex than they are. There's not one guy I've played golf with, at any age, who hasn't complained (11) about how little sex he was having. You walk into any comedy club, and 70 percent of the material is about how little sex people are having. You watch TV sitcoms (12). They're all about sex. There's this myth that everyone else is having more than you are, and here was an opportunity to go behind the bedroom door and show what it felt like."
He conceded that making the film was difficult but said the producers at Mandate Pictures and Columbia Pictures looked beyond the obvious obstacles. Frankel said: "Are teenagers going to line up to see this? Probably not. But that's OK. If we've learned anything, it's that there's a baby-boomer audience that's underserved with intelligent, funny, thoughtful (13) movies."
An encouraging example would be "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," a dry comedy about a group of British pensioners relocating to India, with a cast drawn from the cream of the British screen. It's made more than $44 million in the United States, or quadruple its reported budget. Worldwide it's made almost twice that. Which suggests that its audience is more than just the AARP-eligible.
We've been surprised and delighted (14) by the way younger audiences have responded to the film," said the "Marigold" screenwriter (15), Ol Parker, who adapted freely from "These Foolish Things," a novel by Deborah Moggach. "But I don't know that it's for me to say why they have. I guess if you try to write with honesty and emotional truth, then that will resonate no matter what the age of the viewer."
Like Taylor, Parker, 43, was "writing above my age." "I just did what any writer does, tried to listen to the characters, whether they're 18 or 80," he said.
The same goes for Christopher Ford, 31, who wrote the futuristic "Robot & Frank," which will be released theatrically this month after a successful festival run and an Alfred P. Sloan prize at the Sundance Film Festival. It stars Frank Langella as a jewel thief (16) and ex-con (17) in the early stages of dementia who enlists his caretaker robot into pulling off one last heist (18).
"Maybe I wasn't thinking it through," Ford said, "but when I was writing the script, I never thought it would be something for older people, or something just for them. I was a little surprised that people said, 'Oh, what a great film for older people.' I guess so. I mean, it's clearly from Frank's perspective. But I think anyone can feel what he feels."
Movies about older characters seem inevitably to focus on time or mortality, not the hottest (19) marketing tools. "Paradoxically I found the age of the characters to be precisely what was so appealing about the central idea," Parker said. "They know they don't have too much longer on this earth, and that informs the way they act, the choices they take. And yet the more entrenched (20) one is in life, the greater the bravery required to change."
Taylor said she was initially nervous about the reception "Hope Springs" might get because she felt it was so personal. She came to see that situation differently. "People who are in relationships are a huge (21) group of people, over a huge age range," she said with a laugh. "I think people keyed into that, and that's what's furthered it along. They became committed in a personal way to getting it made."
This included the actors, Frankel said. "Meryl and Tommy and Steve brought their own experiences and relationships to it. There were lots of little bits where Meryl would say, 'Oh, my husband's going to love this,' or Tommy denying (22) he was anything like his character, while his wife stood behind him rolling her eyes. A lot of it was genuinely personal".
1. struggling young writer: escriptor jove que lluita per sobreviure
2. screenplay: guió
3. fed up: fart
4. to withdraw: retirar
5. begrudgingly: de mala gana
6. pack your toothbrush: ficar el raspall de dents a la maleta
7. to run counter to: anar en contra de
8. to creep: entrar sigil·losament
9. to heal: guarir
10. appeal: atracció
11. to complain: queixar-se
12. sitcom: comèdia d'embolics
13. thoughtful: pensatiu
14. delighted: encantat
15. screenwriter: guionista
16. jewel thief: lladre de joies
17. ex-con: expresoner
18. heist: atracament
19. the hottest: el més excitant
20. entrenched: atrinxerat
21. huge: enorme
22. to deny: negar
Find the following words in the glossary.
1. very happy
2. very big
3. person who writes the words of a film
4. TV comedy such as Friends
6. reluctantly or resentfully
7. robbery (e.g. bank)
8. to say you don't like something
Complete these sentences adapted from the text with the correct preposition.
1. Kay if fed _______ of life.
2. Taylor is _______ her 30s.
3. They were delighted _______ how younger audiences responded.
4. It's based on a novel _______ Deborah Moggach.