Hope Springs is being promoted as a romantic comedy and it starts out humorously enough but this heartfelt and poignant drama packs an emotional punch you won’t soon forget.
I wasn’t terribly excited about seeing this film but with a first rate cast like Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carell, I figured it couldn’t be that bad. As it turned out my faith in the cast was well placed and the film was far better than I ever imagined.
A couple of empty nesters find themselves, as many do, in a bland and lifeless routine. Sexless and non-communicative, their marriage is gradually deteriorating when Kay, a housewife played by Meryl Streep, decides to spice things up with some much needed rejuvenation by attending a couples counseling retreat in the small town of Hope Springs, Maine.
I was impressed by how this film did not shy away from some very delicate subject matter and treated it with sensitivity and honesty. We discover that the issues this couple faces, as difficult as they might be, are also more common than we might be willing to admit. It’s not uncommon for a long successful relationship to falter or end once children have moved out and the relationship has lost its focus. This movie pulls no punches and its tender portrayal of marital issues may hit close to home.
Although this film has its funny and romantic moments and is ultimately a feel good film, I would recommend you bring lots of tissue paper as it’s also an emotional roller-coaster. At the screening I attended, the audience was so moved that no one left their seats for quite a while after the lights came up. I must say that I was similarly moved and stayed seated for a long moment after the credits rolled to recover from the impact of what I had just experienced.
One doesn’t normally associate Tommy Lee Jones, recently from Men in Black 3 (2012), with this kind of role but he is absolutely outstanding and completely believable as Arnold, a stern husband set in his ways who isn’t at all comfortable talking about intimate feelings. His grudging reaction to being coerced into coming along on this excursion is like a child who knows he's going to the dentist to have his teeth pulled.
Meryl Streep, recently from The Iron Lady (2011), is brilliant as usual, playing a devoted sexually repressed housewife trying bravely to do the right thing in the hopes of bringing back the youthful spirit her and her husband once had.
Steve Carell, recently from Crazy, Stupid, Love (2011), plays it as straight as you will ever see him but still manages to pull off the funniest understated performance while basking in the light of the exceptional Oscar talent seated on his therapists couch.
David Frankel, who also directed the excellent The Devil Wears Prada (2006), working from a script by Venessa Taylor, does a wonderful job of bringing out the best from his cast and finding the humor in the reality of the situations. He is not afraid to deal with the most squeamish issues head on.
This movie is all about the remarkable performances of the three leads and I would not be surprised to find this film being nominated for awards next year for its extraordinary genuine portrayals of largely ignored issues of marriage and relationships.