Monday, August 20, 2012


For those craving a departure from the usual summer movie fare, "Hope Springs" is a pretty good alternative. And for those wanting to see Meryl Streep's first role in which she acknowledges herself as a perfectly average older woman, this is it. Even in another romantic comedy, "It's Complicated," she had a youthful bounce. This is Streep's "The Bucket List," the one where Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman officially stamped themselves as senior citizen actors in 2007. Have no fear, however, as this is no "Bucket List." From director David Frankel ("The Devil Wears Prada"), Streep shines alongside fictional spouse Tommy Lee Jones in this realistic and touching look at a marriage stuck under the weight of time and without any spark left.

Within the confines of potentially stuffy material, Streep breathes life into Kay, a woman who too long ago became complacent in her 31-year marriage. She stopped seeking attention from her husband, Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones), who otherwise has become preoccupied with his job, meals and the golf channel. All intimacy is absent, as well, with them no longer kissing, touching or hugging, and even sleeping in separate beds in separate rooms. Their life has become an unchanging routine, and the movie begins right as Kay realizes she desperately wants change.

Kay signs them up for intensive couples counseling in the quaint, postcard-ready town of Great Hope Springs, Maine with marriage expert Dr. Feld (Steve Carrell). Rather than suggesting the idea to Arnold, Kay tells him she bought plane tickets and hopes he will board the flight with her. Of course Arnold doesn't take kindly to this idea. Not realizing there's anything that needs fixing, he figures why disrupt the peace. Huffing and scowling all the way, he reluctantly agrees to go. Tommy Lee Jones is really the one to watch here as he presents Arnold as a stubborn and angry man, giving a performance we never knew he could. While stern, he also shows vulnerability slowly revealing more layers to Arnold's stonewall exterior.

Majority of the running time is spent inside Dr. Feld's office where Steve Carrell plays the compassionate counselor perfectly straight, no trace of comedy. With Carrell providing zero of the movie's humor (which stems from Streep and Jones only), he does two things. He gives Kay and Arnold the platform to sort through their issues for not only them but the audience, as well. With them both so visibly uncomfortable talking about their sex life, we begin to see how their marriage slumped into its current state. The screenplay from Vanessa Taylor is sharp in these instances but can also feel claustrophobic and sluggish at times. The other thing Carrell does is show a possible turning point for his career post-"Office" days.

"Hope Springs" is just three characters the whole time with only a glimpse into Kay and Arnold's family and outside life. Interaction with more people and a slightly larger scope would've given the movie more stretching room and made it feel less slight. Worth watching, though, is Streep and Jones, especially during a charming and hilarious movie theater scene where the couple tries something way outside their comfort zone. What's more is that this isn't just about a 20-plus year marriage crisis -- it's more universal and through the outlet of this couple reaches to themes about seemingly small problems in life that can grow to something more painful and permanent.

1 comment:

  1. Really nice review, thank you! I was hoping to see this in theaters but missed the chance. It's something I'll look forward to on dvd. :)