RATED: ★ ★ ★ 1/2 out of 5 buckets | WORTH: Matinee or Rental
Rated: PG-13 Sexuality and mature thematic content.
Release Date: August 8, 2012
Run time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Director: David Frankel
Writers: Vanessa Taylor
Cast: Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, Jean Smart, Steve Carell, Ben Rappaport
SYNOPSIS: After thirty-one years of marriage, a middle-aged housewife pays for and requests her husband to fly from Nebraska to Maine to attend an intense, week-long counseling session to work on their failing relationship.
REVIEW: David Frankel, director of The Big Year, The Devil Wears Prada, and Marley and Me, tackles another story of internal conflict and discovery in the form of Hope Springs. Written by Vanessa Taylor, a television teleplay writer of shows like A Game of Thrones and Alias, this Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep film delves into the downfall of lost communications and the complacent comfort.In Omaha, Nebraska, Kay (Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady) looks on her husband Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones, Men In Black 3) and her life with worries that the silent comfort and familiarity of thirty-one years of marriage has dulled her spirit and the prospects of their lives together. Struggling to find a way to spice up their routine, Kay reads books and searches the Internet to find a way out of their rut. Coming across a book entitled "Having the Marriage You Always Wanted", Kay discovers a therapist named Dr. Feld. She pays for a week-long counseling package in Maine with Dr. Feld (Steve Carell, Seeking A Friend for the End of the World), telling Arnold that she is going on the trip whether Arnold decides to join her or not. Feeling trapped, Arnold does indeed join her, and they set themselves on the same, but separate paths of discovery - both for themselves and for each other.
Hope Springs is a story with a simple premise. Can an adrift relationship be saved? Should it be saved? Just because a couple has a document stating a contract of marriage and have both put decades of their lives and effort into that relationship, does that automatically mean that there is something to salvage? Regardless of the story focusing on a middle-aged couple, I think that most people who have been in a relationship of any length can relate to the jeopardy of falling into comfortable silences.
The film is funny and bittersweet. In spite of - or because of - the subject matter, most of the audience laughed outright at the reactions of Tommy Lee's Arnold and Meryl's Kay in response to the awkward questions from Carell's Dr. Feld. Imagine your own reaction to queries of your sexual fantasies or how you pleasure yourself or your partner, add in a timid, naive shock from Kay or a gruff, shut down angry response from Arnold, and you have a realistic, sweet, and humorous look at life. But as quickly as a teeter of laughs erupt, the mood changes as any of Kay and Arnold's slight gain of confidence or perspective becomes a grueling realization of miscues, miscommunications, and missed opportunities spanning their life together.
Tommy Lee Jones keeps his signature gruff as the detached, routine-driven Arnold, sticking to a schedule of eggs, bacon, and a newspaper in the morning, and falling asleep to instructional golf shows on basic cable at night. Meryl Streep plays the dutiful wife to her loved husband, finally acting on the realization that she wants to have the marriage she remembered from their more passionate youth. Steve Carell tones down his normal comic flares in favor of an understated role as the therapist, only revealing his lighter nature when he spies a possible breakthrough in the eyes of his reluctant patients. Jean Smart steps in as Kay's co-worker and friend for a few moments and a few others drift in and out of scenes, but the root of the story is rooted firmly on the couch of Dr. Feld in a small New England town. Tommy Lee and Meryl are the story, and we delight in their progress, laugh at their awkwardness, sigh at their tender moments, and anguish at their bittersweet realizations.
Through the entirety of the movie, we are never handed the ending. Whether Arnold and Amy stay together or decide to finally call it quits in in their hands and their hearts, a difficult decision that could go either way. Just like life, nothing is for certain. And becauseHope Springs is like real life, most of us can relate to what Arnold and Kay are going through to some extent. The moviegoer's ability to relate is what makes Hope Springs a humorous and bittersweet film, taking the audience on the trip with Kay and Arnold. Hope Springs is not as expansive or pondering as Jack Nicholson's About Schmitt, keeping itself instead focused directly on the marriage couple trying to reignite a passion for living and each other that starts with the simple task of holding each other in their arms again.
Hope Springs will make you laugh, and possibly well up a tear or two, a strong film centered around an experience and stellar cast of Jones, Streep, and Carell. The summer blockbusters are quickly winding down, the colorful heroes and their struggles against evil villains making way to everyday people struggling against the passing of time and life.