Movie Review: Hope Springs
What happens after thirty-one years of marriage resulting in two grown children? Your marriage can get a bit stale, which is the issue at hand in the new movie Hope Springs which stars Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones. Kay (Streep) and Arnold (Jones) are sadly functioning as mere roommates – even sleeping in separate rooms at the start of the film. Just as we audience members have run out of pity for them, Kay confronts her unhappiness by asking Arnold to go with her to an intensive week of couples therapy in the town of Hope Springs. Naturally, Arnold is skeptical and acts as if he’s unaware that there is even a problem with their relationship. Arnold’s negativity and skepticism heightens even further after he is introduced to the leader of the marriage retreat, Dr. Bernie Feld (played by Steve Carell). Together under Dr. Feld’s supervision, Arnold and Kay try to rebuild the emotional and physical connection again that has vanished over the years.
The movie is at its peak when Kay and Arnold are challenged by Dr. Feld’s “homework” exercises which are designed to re-introduce the act of physical touch to their relationship. These scenes are not only the most humorous, but they’re also the most tender as the characters reveal a longing for one another that is far more intimate than sex could ever be. Both Jones and Streep give so much of themselves in their performances that their respective characters’ vulnerabilities are downright eloquent. This is the proverbial magic that happens when two veterans get together and remind us just how good a movie relying on acting alone without the clutter of contemporary movie making. Not to say that the cinematography in the town of Hope Springs isn’t beautiful, but rather optional. Jones and Streep could carry a movie using a dark, windowless basement as the setting riding solely on their presence and charisma alone. Also equally impressive is Carell’s performance which was surprisingly not as humorous as Jones’ or Streep’s. Instead, Carell showcases the deeper side of his talents perfecting his role as a marriage expert to which longtime partners Kay and Arnold sought guidance.
Aside from the tremendous acting, the way the film explores real issues in a marriage is another of its highlights. It is as relatable as it is compelling which are two things that can be credited to Vanessa Taylor, the film’s writer, as well as David Frankel, the film’s director (Marley and Me, The Devil Wears Prada). This is not easy to achieve due to the fact that the topics of marriage and relationships have been explored countless times on screen. I think these are topics that puzzle us all sometimes, which is evident in the fact that the movie industry has even created a sub-category for these types of comedies called romantic comedies (much to my dismay – just call it a comedy please and let us bring our own expectations), and this film gives you the feeling that the actors, writer and director of this film are no different from any of us. I find this comforting, and Hope Springs truly enjoyable.