Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Run Time: 1 hour 40 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, Steve Carell
Written by Vanessa Taylor
Directed by David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada, Marley & Me, The Big Year)
Marriage is forever, but man, can that feel like forever.
In Hope Springs we get a breath of cinematic fresh air by following – ironically – a stale, old married couple. Meryl Streep is Kay, who has been married for 31 years to her husband Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones). Arnold falls asleep each night in the recliner watching the Golf Channel, and Kay brags about how, for their anniversary, they bought each other a new cable subscription.
They seem neither in love nor out of love, just simply…comfortable, but weary. This may be the normalcy of any long-term relationship, and we all have seen many, many times of film the story of the couple who has lost their spark. But Hope Springs is daring enough to show us the reality of marriages after “happy ever after” has left the building.
When we get a glimpse upstairs, we see that Kay and Arnold face some serious problems. Arnold can barely be touched, and he sleeps in a separate bed. Feeling like she wants to save her marriage, Kay enlists them in a getaway to Hope Springs to attend a week-long marriage counseling session that will hopefully restore their spark.
Steve Carell plays the very subtle counselor in a bit of very clever casting. Just the site of Steve Carell makes us think that things will at once go haywire and slapstick, but this movie goes in a different – delightful – direction.
It is totally unfair how great Meryl Streep is. She doesn’t disappoint here, in what could and should be yet another possible nomination-worthy role. It was great to see Tommy Lee Jones at the top of his game as well, after mailing in his performance in the recent Men in Black film. The two carry the film, and besides Carell, there doesn’t seem to hardly be any other characters. What an incredible ensemble of three.
Who knows if Carell’s methods are real-world based, but they do a number on Kay and Arnold. Many of the therapy tips deal in the realm of sexuality, and their past relationship in the bedroom. It is not every day you see a fearless screenplay such as this that is also intensely funny. The story never shies away from their senior-aged sex life. Yes young people, as much as you don’t want to think about it, old people do it too.
It is one of the funnier films of the year and a sure-fire hit for older audiences who are sick of the R-rated gross-out humor that seems to have permeated the theaters as of late. But Grandmas and Grandpas beware: Where most films may hint at senior sex, Hope Springs is not afraid to go there.
Don’t think that a younger audience won’t get anything out of this film either. Had this story been about a modern day couple, they’d have probably just divorced in the first five minutes. Is it old-fashioned to stay married? Hope Springs tells us that even great marriages have bad years.
Go see Hope Springs if you want to see Streep and Jones put on an acting clinic. But more than just their performances, they are working with A-grade material. It’s a pleasure to watch elite actors raise mediocre material to greater heights, but it is another thing altogether when the quality of the content matches the quality of the acting. Hope Springs is that happy marriage.
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