I never would have considered casting Tommy Lee Jones as the lead male opposite¬†Meryl Streep in a romantic comedy, and that‚Äôs probably why no one is hiring me as a¬†casting agent. The craggy-faced Jones is perfect in ‚ÄúHope Springs‚ÄĚ as the cantankerous¬†half of a sixty-something couple whose marriage is desperately in need of a shot of¬†adrenaline. The only problem is that the movie is neither the rom-com I assumed it was,¬†nor the comedy it is being advertised as. Despite hearing lots of chuckling from the
audience throughout most of this film, I think some of that was nervous laughter, since I¬†found much of ‚ÄúHope Springs‚ÄĚ to be a serious adult drama about dealing with intimacy,¬†and the lack of it in a relationship.

Kay (Streep) and Arnold (Jones) Soames have just celebrated their thirty-first wedding¬†anniversary and while Arnold seems content with the rut they are in (not only do they¬†sleep in separate beds, but those beds are in separate rooms), Kay decides their¬†marriage needs some added spice; more like an entire spice cabinet. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs like being¬†married to ESPN,‚ÄĚ she complains. With great difficulty, she manages to get Arnold to¬†trek with her to a small town in Maine for a week-long therapy session with renowned¬†marriage expert, Dr. Bernard Feld. The doctor, played by Steve Carell with sensitivity¬†and grace (if anyone is expecting him to be funny in this film, forget it–he‚Äôs not), works¬†with the couple on such an intense level, that I felt myself squirming in my seat almost¬†as much as Jones was doing on the sofa in the film. Watching him and Streep trying to¬†go through the act of peeling away their clothes, as well as years of behavior that led¬†them to this point in their marriage was downright painful. Not because it was¬†unpleasant to witness, but more so because it was sad to witness.

The film, directed by David Frankel, who also directed ‚ÄúThe Devil Wears Prada,‚ÄĚ is more¬†like a primer for couples interested in therapy. So much so, that the official movie¬†website contains an ‚Äúinstructional manual for husbands and wives interested in keeping¬†their marriage in bloom.‚ÄĚ Director Frankel has played it safe by incorporating enough¬†light material into this film so that the commercials can label it a comedy, but he also¬†puts forth a glimpse into how complex and deep-rooted some marital issues can be, and¬†how arduous a task it is to solve them.

There are some lovely cameos by Elizabeth Shue and Mimi Rogers, and I wish their¬†talents could have been used to a greater degree. But the film belongs to Streep,¬†Jones, and Carell. It is admirable of the studio to produce a film that would appeal to¬†those of a ‚Äúcertain age.‚ÄĚ I‚Äôm sure there is lots here that those earliest Baby Boomers,¬†now in their sixties, can relate to. But if they are expecting to enjoy a light romp of a film,¬†rather than one that will bring many a lump to the throat, this one is not for them. It is¬†smart and amusing, with a few surprises thrown in for good measure.

BA50 at the Movies: Hope Springs was last modified: by

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