Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) are a devoted couple, but decades of marriage have left Kay wanting to spice things up and reconnect with her husband. When she hears of a renowned couple's specialist (Steve Carell) in the small town of Great Hope Springs, she attempts to persuade her skeptical husband, a steadfast man of routine, to get on a plane for a week of marriage therapy. Just convincing the stubborn Arnold to go on the retreat is hard enough - the real challenge for both of them comes as they shed their bedroom hang-ups and try to re-ignite the spark that caused them to fall for each other in the first place.
In an idyllic two-story country-style home, painted a soothing yellow, Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) and Kay (Meryl Streep) reside, having been married for 31 years. There life is one of routine, their marriage reaching the point where intimacy no longer exists. Sleeping in separate bedrooms makes this point perfectly clear, as does Arnold's rejection of Kay's attempts at lovemaking. Time has taken a toll on their relationship and Kay is determined to reignite the spark they once shared. She books a week-long retreat in Great Hope Springs, Maine with acclaimed therapist Dr. Feld. Kay is excited over the trip, having spent her own savings to pay for it, while Arnold is vehemently against the entire idea. Arnold is stodgy, grumpy, and frugal, to say the least. His idea of an anniversary present is getting the bigger Cable T.V. package--while he only watches golf, much to Kay's dismay. An ultimatum of sorts gets Arnold begrudgingly on the plane to Maine, where he and Kay find themselves on the couch of Dr. Feld (Steve Carell). What comes next is an intrusive week of therapy where Kay and Arnold will share with each other intimate details of their sex lives, their feelings towards one another as they have aged, and most importantly reveal exactly why they have become part of a lifeless marriage, even when there is still love present.
Hope Springs is completely focused on the relationship between Kay and Arnold, and it is the incredible acting talents of Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones that keep the film afloat during its lengthy, and commonly uncomfortable dialogue reliant story. Carell's Dr. Feld exists as the medium between the two, and to assign exercises, or "sexercises"--it is hard to tell what word he is actually using. Dr. Feld takes Arnold and Kay through the baby steps of intimacy, probes them with questions about their life together, and the viewer is brought into a relationship that is broken, harbors secrets, and ultimately has found time to be an enemy in maintaining more than comfortable cohabitation. When Kay admits that she would be "less lonely being alone" your heart breaks for her, feeling the pain in her eyes and the catch in her throat when the words are spoken. Hope Springs is an emotional roller coaster, mixed up in comedic moments between Kay and Arnold as they try and rekindle the romance in their marriage. A scene in a movie theater is unforgettably hilarious, as is watching Tommy Lee Jones squirm and play avoidance tactics when the topic of sex is brought up in therapy. Topics such as orgasms, fantasies, and sexual positions bring about actions from both Kay and Arnold that invoke laughter, while also producing empathy at the pain these two people are in with this experience, and that which led to it happening.
For the ways in which Hope Springs is an honest look at the effects of marriage over 30-years, and the need to rediscover one another, it is very much a product of its own demographic. Kay and Arnold are playing a couple in their early-to-mid 60s. Relating to them by a younger generation is difficult. Watching them in sexual situations uncomfortable as it reminds one of their own parents, an image few want to imagine. For an older married couple Hope Springs will be an emotional roller coaster full of relatable moments throughout. It will make you reevaluate your own relationship and possibly reinvigorate it should it have grown a tad stale. As a young couple you can learn something, like the importance of marrying someone you truly love and admire, so when the spark dies out there is something there to help salvage what was lost. Hope Springs is a lovely dramatic comedy that has enough sentiment, laughter, heart, and two understated and therefore incredible performances by Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones. A viewer who knows what they are getting will be more than happy with the choice of watching Hope Springs.
In real-life, Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep have probably known one another for over 30 years professionally. This could be the reason they have such an easy chemistry on screen. His gruffness to her sweet hum play off one another like a perfectly tuned instrument. The believability that these two people have been married for 31 years is clear from the moment Kay (Meryl Streep) fries up an egg and one piece of bacon for Arnold's (Tommy Lee Jones) breakfast in the morning, only to be greeted with barely a glance before he dives into the newspaper. A kiss on the cheek is her reward before he swiftly leaves for work. Kay and Arnold's marriage is not what it is used to be, and Streep and Jones manage the waves of emotional turmoil, uncomfortable silence and revelations with great sincerity. Hope Springs relies completely on their connection with one another, the way in which they react to the other's truths and avoidances. The body language they present in times of intimacy, or those in which the emotional strain of therapy is taking its toll on their psyche, and relationship. The chemistry between Streep's Kay and Jones' Arnold is undeniable, making them a perfect match on screen for a married couple whose lost their spark and giving a viewer an intimate look at one couple's struggle to hold onto a life that shows no resemblance to what it once had been.
Comedy, Drama, Romance
August 8, 2012