I’ve been looking forward to this film for a while, hoping to see a thoughtful, gutsy examination of a long and dedicated marriage that has simply lost that loving feeling.
I thought of my devoted parents, who after so many years together, act like roommates, sleeping in separate bedrooms, living separate lives, but never straying from each other. So I watched these characters with intense interest and hoped they could come up with some answers.
Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) go through their daily Omaha routine like clockwork. He sets his briefcase and his suit jacket on the same kitchen chair, says good morning to his dutiful wife, sits down to his one egg and one slice of bacon, one cup of coffee, just before burying his nose in the morning paper.
They exchange brief pleasantries, discuss the evening’s activities, he’s off to his tax accountant job, she sets about her chores. It’s the same scenario every day.
One night, Kay awkwardly tries to lure Arnold into a moment of intimacy and he rebuffs her. She’s heartbroken. He’s clueless. They need help.
She finds it in the form of a weeklong couple’s retreat in Maine, working with a marriage therapist, Dr. Feld (a subdued Steve Carell). Arnold has no interest, but knows if he doesn’t go, he will hear about it forever.
“I hope you’re happy,” he mumbles as he gruffly takes his seat on the airplane. They are off to Great Hope Springs, Maine.
Dr. Feld turns out to be genuinely good at his job as he carefully probes and prods Kay and Arnold about their marriage. As you can imagine, there will be many awkward moments, especially when talk turns to sex. The good doctor wants details. Arnold wants to run. Kay wants to cry.
It will be difficult for the couple to open up. The film’s soundtrack will not help either. It will sound too hip and modern for such a classic couple. Who picked these songs?
This movie is not all fun and games, despite the director’s efforts to keep things light. I’m not sure if he truly wanted to get to the nuts and bolts of a strong, loving marriage or just wanted to watch Jones and Streep squirm so convincingly.
But I have to admit, I was really pulling for them. I became interested in their lives and appreciated their struggles to find solutions. I came away grateful for having gone through the experience
“Hope Springs” is essentially about a middle-aged couple trying to find joy. It is funny without being too comical. And it is poignant without being too serious. It feels real (except for an abrupt turn in the third act) and that’s the best thing about it.