Taking a rather sobering look into a mature relationship, Hope Springs endeavours to see the funny side of an all together rather dismal subject matter: marriage counselling.
Starring Meryl Streep as the neglected housewife Kay, and Tommy Lee Jones as the dry, negative husband Arnold, Hope Springs really does epitomise the couple’s 30-year marriage in the most lovemaking-less, depressing way possible.
The initial problem with Hope Springs appears to be the choice of cast. Actors with such presence as Streep and Jones, and even Steve Carell (who plays the deadpan-love-doctor, Dr Bernie Feld), need a film to really make their own – perhaps why usually they end up in title roles – so maybe it is to Hope Springs’ credit that they managed to pair Streep and Jones together in this authentic depiction of a real life relationship.
The storyline is straightforward; after celebrating their anniversary with a joint gift-subscription to cable TV, Kay decides she wants to give their marriage a make-over, and attempts to salvage her diminishing confidence from Arnold’s consistent rejections. After some light bribery, Kay gets Arnold onto a plane and they head to the small Maine town of Great Hope Springs where, ready to help them, is Dr Feld.
The events that ensue are somewhat predictable. Horrendously awkward to watch is any sexual contact involving Streep and Jones. For two actors held in such high regard by many as being mature and supreme in their roles, to get cheap laughs from watching Kay’s attempts to tease arousal out of Arnold, and even herself, feels a little undignifying! Furthermore, the film feels like an intrusion into the lives of older relatives, actors we recognise, and this results in a high level of cringe.
Acting talent itself in Hope Springs does not fail to deliver. A true reflection of director David Frankel’s ability to bring out the “bitchy editor” of Streep in The Devil Wears Prada is reproduced in this film, with Prada being swapped for a sad, painful smile – a look of desperation and yearning which Streep perfects throughout the film. Jones, on the other hand, provides the greatest amount of laughs with his dry humour, typically blaming hormones for his wife’s sudden change.
From an ageist industry comes a film so steeped in truth that, at times, it is uncomfortable. That being said, the film does offer a refreshing change of topic to the usual Hollywood content, and watching two people renew their zest for life, and one another, always leaves you with a warm feeling of contentment.
Released in UK cinemas on 14th September 2012.
Watch the trailer here: