There’s always hope
HERE’S how surprisingly effective Hope Springs is: It will make you want to go home and have sex with your spouse afterward.
Or at least share a longer hug or a more passionate kiss.
You don’t have to be married for 31 years like the stuck- in- a- rut couple Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones play to feel inspired by the film’s message about the importance of keeping your relationship alive.
It sounds like a cliche because it is a cliche, and more: It’s a cottage industry, one that’s launched countless afternoon talk- show episodes and shelf after shelf of self- help books.
And yet, despite television ads that look alternately wacky and mawkish and suggest glossy superficiality, Hope Springs unearths some quiet and often uncomfortable truths.
The first produced script from television writer and producer Vanessa Taylor ( Alias, Game of Thrones ) explores the complicated dynamics that develop in a long- term relationship with great honesty and little judgment.
What looks like a standard rom- com turns into something akin to a contemporary Ingmar Bergman film.
Kay and her husband, Arnold, live in a comfortable home in Omaha, Nebraska. Their children have grown up and moved out, leaving them to settle into a drab routine. She cooks him bacon and a couple of fried eggs every morning, which he eats at the kitchen table while reading the newspaper.
A quick kiss on the cheek and Arnold is off to work at an accounting firm where he’s one of the partners.
When he comes home at night, some sort of meat- and- potatoes dinner is waiting for him.
Afterward, she cleans up while he dozes off in the recliner watching the golf channel on television. Then they head upstairs to go to sleep in their separate bedrooms. And it’s been this way for years. Tired of the sexless complacency, Kay insists one day that she and Arnold take part in an intense, one- week couples’ therapy session in Maine.
Arnold grudgingly agrees to join her in the idyllic New England hamlet of Great Hope Springs, but once he sits down on the couch, it takes a while for him even to consider opening up to the soft- spoken but persistent Dr Bernard Feld ( Steve Carell, playing a solid straight man to allow the two stars to stand out).
The therapy scenes are exquisitely acted and paced, with body language and slight facial gestures that speak volumes.
Arnold is perpetually exasperated and emotionally closed off but he’s convinced himself he’s content; Jones is doing his patented, humorously gruff persona but with some eventual vulnerability that provides shading and depth. He’s great here.
And Streep is . . . well, she’s Meryl Streep. Lovely, slightly naive and goofy and always so accessible, she never has a moment that feels forced or false.
Kay longs to be loved so desperately, your heart just aches for her and yet, she also may bear much of the blame for the state of her marriage.
Without a single special effect or explosion, Hope Springs is the movie with real punch.
Despite wacky TV ads . . . it unearths some quiet and often uncomfortable truths
THERE YOU GO, DEAR:
Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones go through the motions.