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Hope Springs Review

By Tom Fugalli

There's Still "Hope" for Hollywood


"Hope Springs" finds Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) not so much celebrating as observing their 31st anniversary. And the honeymoon has been over for quite some time. Conversations are mundane exchanges about meals and air conditioning. There is barely any eye contact between them, let alone physical contact. Each night she cooks, and he falls asleep in front of the TV. Eventually they murmur their goodnights and retire to separate bedrooms. They also eventually end up in couples therapy with Dr. Bernie Feld (Steve Carell) in Hope Springs, Maine.

The movie is not graphic, but neither does it look away, as Kay and Arnold perform (with various rates of success) the "sexercises" prescribed by Dr. Feld. These scenes contain humor, hope, and heartache. Though this couple is older than the Hollywood norm, anyone, regardless of age, will be able to relate to a common need to connect.

Meryl Streep, not surprisingly, completely delivers again, and is pitch-perfect between repression and passion. Tommy Lee Jones has played the silent type before, but has never prepared us for his portrayal of the wounded animal beneath the domesticated husband. Steve Carell as a psychiatrist sounds like the setup for a joke, but he is not the comic relief. His performance is thoughtful and kind, and he isn't overshadowed by the two screen legends on his couch.

The subversive shock-value of "Hope Springs" is that it uses silence more effectively than special effects, and pregnant pauses more explosively than loaded weapons. Unfortunately, these unspoken subtleties can be more than compensated for by a shameless soundtrack, which is too often used like a blunt instrument to beat the correct feelings into us.

Directed by David Frankel and written by Vanessa Taylor, "Hope Springs" combines just the right amounts of lightness and darkness, somehow marrying Nora Ephron with Ingmar Bergman. Marriage can get ugly, but not airbrushing the realities of growing old together is this movie's most attractive quality.

What did you think?

Movie title Hope Springs
Release year 2012
MPAA Rating PG-13
Our rating
Summary Can the marital problems of a pair of Omaha empty-nesters compete with the blockbuster aliens, superheroes, and sex in the other theaters? Spoiler: yes!
View all articles by Tom Fugalli
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