There’s al­ways hope

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - MOVIES - CHRISTY LEMIRE

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


Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones go through the mo­tions.

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