Hope Springs

PhotobucketKay and Arnold have been married for 30 years. They still love each other but they’ve settled into a routine existence. “We live in the same house like two workers who bunk in separate rooms” she laments. Not happy with the way their marriage has evolved, Kay seeks to attend sessions with a renowned counselor in an effort to relight the spark in their humdrum relationship. That’s it. That’s the story. This is a situation that occurs in marriages all across the world. There’s nothing especially innovative about the tale. The performances are another story. Our two leads are extraordinary. Interestingly, the tone is surprisingly darker than you might think. Certainly no one would confuse Hope Springs with the existential themes of an Ingmar Bergman picture, but nevertheless the emotional mood is pretty dour and depressing.

Hope Springs isn’t a horrible film. Tommy Lee Jones and in particular Meryl Streep are as miraculous in their roles as any actor could possibly be. It’s positively mesmerizing how they can hold your attention with merely a facial expression or vocal inflection. They bring a lot to the parts. Unfortunately the vast majority of the action takes place in a therapist’s office. Had it not been for their involvement, this would have been absolute torture to watch. I wish this had been a live play on the stage because dramatically it would’ve been more effective. I do feel this will have greater significance to couples of a certain age that have been married for many years. The script gently affirms the idiosyncrasies of a longtime couple. Streep and Jones inhabit these characters with the sincerity of performers that perfectly understand these people. There are some scenes between the two legendary thespians that are exceptionally credible. Their unease with the intimacy exercises their therapist has prescribed, is an amusing plot point. It becomes genuinely uncomfortable. There are cringe inducing displays where Kay and Arnold must push themselves to engage in activities they wouldn‘t normally do. They’re patently designed to provoke laughter, much of it being of the nervous sort.  It gives new meaning to why a person in their 60s is called a sexagenarian.

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9 Responses to “Hope Springs”

  1. Yeah, it had its dark moments; why shouldn’t opening your eyes to find yourself on a canyon’s edge be a little dour?

    Of course I don’t blame anyone for wanting lighter fare, especially when they see Carell on the playbill. Some films are good for escape; this one is good for introspection.

    • My reaction had more to do with the bait and switch tactics of the trailer. The ads marketed a warm, feel-good sex comedy with slapstick and old people. It was that too, but it made this look much more lightweight. I found the somewhat darker mood preferable actually.

  2. I agree, the story was simple. It took Meryl and Tommy’s talents to bring magic to the dialog. They did just that, for me.

  3. “It gives new meaning to why a person in their 60s is called a sexagenarian.” Ha! Loved that.

    Great review, Mark! Never in a million years I would’ve thought this would be “dour and depressing”. The trailer and poster make it look super light. I’m curious about this one, mainly for Meryl Streep.

    • There are light moments, but the overall tone is melancholy. Given the fact that you’re one of the biggest Meryl Streep fans I know, I figured you might see this before me. Surprised I beat you to the punch. ;-)

      I’ll be curious to hear what you think.

  4. Alex Withrow Says:

    Very fair, balanced review. I definitely didn’t go in expecting much (or anything) from this, but I thought it had genuine moments of hardship and dread.

    Not perfect, not horrible. Very good for the demo it was targeting.

  5. martin250 Says:

    nice review Mark. i was hoping for this to be great because of the casting. the trailer looked promising.

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