Hope Springs

Directed By: David Frankel

Starring: Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, Steve Carell, and Elisabeth Shue

Life is good for Meryl Streep this year.  She's added another statue named Oscar to her award shelf.  She's considered by most to be the greatest living actress.  She's enjoying her status as acting royalty and taking her career in whatever direction she chooses.  Now that she's brought The Iron Lady to the big screen, the legendary actress is joining forces with Tommy Lee Jones to explore marriage and intimacy issues in Hope Springs.

Arnold and Kay Soames (Jones and Streep) have been married for 31 years.  They've become distant with one another and fallen into an unhealthy routine.  They sleep in separate rooms.  They don't tell each other how they feel about anything.  They're anything but intimate with one another.  Hell, these two don't even buy meaningful gifts for each other anymore.  On special occasions including birthdays and anniversaries, Arnold and Kay buy each other stuff for the house.  Cable subscriptions, water heaters, and refrigerators aren't exactly gifts that illustrate a man's love for his wife or vice versa.  In a nutshell, their relationship is anything but what a marriage should be, and Kay recognizes this.

Kay wants a change, and she's willing to put it all on the line to make it happen.  She wants a real marriage again.  She begins reading on how to spice up a relationship and she comes across a book by marriage therapist Dr. Bernie Feld (Steve Carell).  Impressed with what she reads, she books a trip for the two of them to go to Great Hope Springs in Maine and have a week of counseling sessions with Dr. Feld.  Arnold refuses to go initially.  After talking to his divorced friend Vince (Brett Rice) about the situation, he gets smart and decides to go with Kay to save his marriage.  At Great Hope Springs, Dr. Feld tries to convince Kay and Arnold to rebuild the intimacy in their lives by communicating with each other, expressing their sexual desires and fantasies, and completing a series of assigned "sexercises".  It may be too late for these two though.

Hope Springs is a fun romp that's sure to please an older crowd.  It's a film that deftly explores intimacy issues between older, married couples.  Director David Frankel gives us an intriguing character study that highlights the ins and outs of Kay and Arnold's attempts to bring romance back into their marriage. He captures every awkward, tense moment in all its hilarity.  At the same time, Hope Springs is a very simple film.  It's a movie with straightforward filmmaking and a predictable narrative.  Without the star power from Streep, Jones, and Carell, this type of a film would probably be just some TV movie on Lifetime or some other cable channel.

Kay Soames is a very different character for Meryl Streep.  She's pretty weak compared to Margaret Thatcher, Sister Aloysius, or Miranda Priestly.  Despite this, Streep does so much with the role of Kay.  She imbues and layers her character with a great deal of emotion.  This emotion is displayed subtly in the early parts of the film but crescendos to something more as the tension escalates between Kay and Arnold.  The telling indicator of this emotion in her performance is her masterful use of body language.  While she certainly could have picked a better role to follow up her Oscar-winning performance in The Iron Lady, I definitely enjoyed Streep's performance in Hope Springs.  Her character would have been so much less meaningful and annoying in the hands of a lesser actress.

Tommy Lee Jones is absolutely perfect for the role of Arnold Soames.  Arnold is cheap.  He complains a lot.  He loves golf.  Most of all, he's grumpy.  That sounds a lot like Jones's typical persona on the big screen, especially now that he's gotten older.  His character is the exact antithesis of what the film is about and that's comedic gold.  You can see it when he's challenging Steve Carell's Dr. Feld on every little sexercise.  You can feel it every time his character refuses to even be touched by Streep's Kay.  He does this all with sarcasm and uncanny comedic timing.  Tommy Lee Jones keeps us laughing throughout Hope Springs.  He’s the ideal cranky old man.

Steve Carell gives a decent performance as Dr. Feld, but he really doesn't add any comedic value.  His character is just there to get on Arnold and Kay’s nerves and to figuratively break the nose of their marriage.

Hope Springs is definitely an enjoyable film, but the stars are better than the material.  Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones make this film much better than it would have been in the hands of lesser actors.  As much as I enjoyed their performances, the film is much too simple.  Hope Springs gets a 0.06% rating.  Have a couple of glasses of chardonnay with this one.