HOPE SPRINGS Send This Review to a Friend
Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones are such convincing actors that, whatever the problems in the screenplay by Vanessa Taylor, one becomes involved with the characters they play. In "Hope Springs," directed by David Frankel, Streep as Kay and Jones as Arnold have been married for 30 years but are
almost totally estranged. They sleep in separate bedrooms and any motion toward sex is shunned by Arnold. Kay inwardly longs for closeness.
They seem so very different that one may wonder how they ever got together in the first place. Kay sees an advertisement for a couples therapy program by a Dr. Feld. Arnold mocks and rejects the idea, but Kay buys air tickets and signs up for the program. Off she goes and, as one might expect, Arnold relents and turns up on the plane.
Dr. Feld is played by Steve Carell, a surprise since Carell is so associated with comedy. Here, he is serious, goading the couple into stabs at trying to recover the intimacy they once had. Arnold is embarrassed at having to delve into past and present feelngs. Kay, although also showing embarassment, is game to explore. At one point Dr. Feld suggests something that I can't believe any therapist would ever recommend. It makes for a hilarious scene in a
movie theater, but this is a place where the script sacrifices reality for showmanship.
That is a basic trouble with the movie. It is gratifying to see the effort to deal with a serious problem, but the packaging undoes much of the good. An annoying score keeps pounding away throughout, as if to punch up the film. Scriptwise, on two occasions Arnold tries but fails to perform, and to Kay, it would appear that the reason is that he no longer finds her attractive. This isn't explored to deal with reasons for Arnold's inadequacy, which a therapist would certainly do.
We know a spark will eventually be rekindled and there are some warm, tender scenes in which we see the process unfolding. But all that is undermined by a dopy, frilly ending with the stars and others cavorting on one side of the screen as the credits run through on the other side.
The film is worth seeing for the performances. Streep, who has played showy roles, is able here to make herself into a rather ordinary housewife while coveying the potential that simmers beneath her troubled exterior. Jones is superb in revealing the the bottled up feelings of a man capable of greater interaction and tenderness. Although the film is a mixture of good intentions partly achieved and lapses in telling a convincing story, there are no shortcomings in the performances of these two remarkable stars. Posted August 24, 2012.