It's amazing what one role can do for a career. Before Pride And Prejudice, Colin Firth was the nearly man of British cinema. One made-to-fit Darcy and a billion damp knickers later, this diffident Brit was a bona-fide leading man.
Hope Springs could almost be retitled Darcy Goes To America. Shocked to discover his fiancée Vera (Minnie Driver) is marrying another guy, English artist Colin (Firth) takes the first plane Stateside and ends up in the tiny Vermont town of Hope, where he intends to mope, sketch, then mope some more. Landlady Joanie (Mary Steenburgen), however, is having none of it, and soon fixes him up with improbably gorgeous nurse Mandy (Heather Graham)... Only for Colin's intended to then want him back.
What we have here, then, is a formulaic but likeable romantic comedy, with writer/director Mark Herman (Little Voice, Brassed Off) stringing things out but never quite stretching our patience. Okay, so the welcoming New England hamlet is about as authentic as the locations (the movie was shot entirely in Canada), and the lack of real wit or invention lets the sheer force of Oliver Platt's pushy town mayor hijack every scene he's in.
But a good-looking cast, a warm, fuzzy tone and some fetching autumnal scenery make this a diverting enough date movie. At the very least, it'll fill the gap until Love, Actually arrives in November.