Meryl Streep. We’ve seen her in so many heavy characterizations these past few years that it’s really interesting to see her portray an average, senior housewife. And still you walk away marveling at what a remarkable actress Ms. Streep is. This time she is matched step by step with Tommy Lee Jones.
“Hope Springs” begins with the 31st wedding anniversary for Kay and Arnold. It is a sad affair, commemorated by a prime rib dinner for family, cooked by Kay. Cleaned up by Kay. Then Kay trots off to her own bedroom and closes the door. Ditto for Arnold. Needless to say Kay and Arnold’s marriage is in a rut. But Kay is not about to throw in the towel. After a trip to the bookstore, she finds a book written by a marriage therapist who promises you can get your marriage back to the way it was when you first exchanged vows. But not only does he write books, he gives intensive and expensive weeklong retreats.
Of course Arnold protests and whines and carries on but eventually concedes to giving it a go. So the couple trots off to a sweet idyllic coastal town in Maine called Great Hope Springs. Enter Steve Carell as Dr. Feld. If you think this is where the laughs will start coming fast and furious, you’re part right. There are some real laughs when it comes to the couple’s bedtime confessions but there is far more awkwardness and sadness.
This is really the root of the problem with this movie. It’s ugly. This couple’s relationship has devolved into a sad, lonely, ugly affair. Previews and trailers would have you believe that “Hope Springs” is a comedy. But it isn’t. Don’t let the fact that there aren’t really any heavy histrionics or screaming matches fool you. This is a drama as serious as it gets. And I feel it’s one that could cause many a fight and maybe even divorce if couples on the edge choose it for their date night. All the crap the couple is going through could be just the thing to bring up all your crap.
Streep and Jones are as real as it gets. I felt a little creepy during some of their scenes because they were so raw, so intimate that I really felt like I was some kind of peeping tom to misery. My heart broke for Kay in her lonely desperation. And I just wanted her to smack Jones and leave him to live out his miserable existence alone. He’s mean, loud and a bully. Why a woman would endure that from a man and seek to stay with him is beyond this single female.
My recommendation for “Hope Springs” is only half hearted. It is a well made movie with gripping, brave, no holds barred performances. But the subject matter and the intimate way it is presented kinda puts one off. Maybe if I had gone in knowing it was a drama, I would have been pleasantly surprised by the comedic elements. As it was, I kinda felt mislead and depressed by the sad, very adult story.
“Hope Springs” works through 3&1/2 Red Vines for solid performances