Can this relationship be saved? We see this theme everyday whether it be on a movie screen, on a daily talk show or on the shelves at the local book store. Hope Springs brings it to the big screen yet again, but this time it is geared towards an age group audiences rarely see - the "over 55's." And though I have no personal experience in this realm, I am going to bet it is one of the most candid and true-to-life adaptations of marriage ever brought to the big screen.
Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) have been married for 31 years. They don’t sleep in the same bed, their morning routine could be timed to a tee, and the only physical intimacy Arnold seems capable of is his cold, brief kiss goodbye on Kay’s cheek every day. Craving more from Arnold, Kay signs the couple up for a week of intensive therapy with Dr. Bernie Feld (Steve Carell) in Hope Springs, Maine. Arnold goes, begrudgingly, and both embark on daily sessions with Dr. Feld. It is not the couple’s love for one another that is in question, but rather can that love be revived to what it once was, emotionally and physically? And ultimately, can this marriage be saved?
I thought I was walking into a light-hearted comedy, but it ended up being so much more. There were several scenes where I did not know whether to laugh or to feel badly for thousands of married couples in the world who could relate to all that Kay and Arnold went through. It was a roller coaster; one minute I could see that old spark and the very next I was not sure whether Kay could stick it out with Arnold for very much longer. I enjoyed being kept in suspense and credit writer Vanessa Taylor with doing it in such a realistic and poignant manner.
I also credit the phenomenal cast for really getting into character and maintaining their roles throughout the film. I knew from the opening scene that Arnold had little interest in intimacy and turned a blind eye to Kay’s need for it and to the deterioration of the marriage. I also knew that though Kay may have wanted it, her timid nature and need to keep the peace kept her from pursuing more. These traits carried on throughout the film and though changes were made, nothing struck me as being off-character.
Streep and Jones were sensational, both apart and together. Not once did I doubt their chemistry, though I have to admit the love scenes were hard to watch. Like I said, Hollywood shies away from the over 55 because it is not what the public craves to see. But screenwriter Taylor and director, David Frankel, handle it in such a delicate manner that it works and I feel it finally provides viewers with a thorough picture of love throughout the ages.
Carell starred as a secondary character, playing the mediator and the catalyst for changes we get to see in the couple’s relationship. Without a Dr. Feld, there would be no movie. However, Kay and Arnold are the main attraction and Carell allows it to be so. We only see him one time at the end of the movie outside of his usual office setting. While Jones deserves much kudos for superbly playing a role outside of his norm, Carell fit the part of the reserved Dr. Feld just as well as he did when he played Michael on The Office.
Is this movie Oscar-worthy? Probably not, but it will teach viewers something no matter what age they are or where they are in life. I saw how hard marriage is and how much work must go into it to prevent a Kay-Arnold situation. And I learned from Dr. Feld that even the best marriages can have a bad year, a year where both partners want to end it. Hope Springs reminded me that no situation is impossible and to always ask myself, “Have I done all I could?” before giving up on anything.