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With all the superhero movies and sequels and prequels and spin-offs going around it’s great to see an original, sophisticated drama for mature adults. How refreshing!
Even better, Hope Springs comes with three fine actors in Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carell.
Streep and Jones are Kay and Arnold, a conservative middle class couple who’ve been married 31 years. They’re comfortable, their kids are grown up, but they’re marriage has become dull, routine, lifeless and maybe even loveless. They don’t even sleep in the same room anymore, and haven’t slept together in four years!
And that’s absolutely fine with Jones, a grumpy old curmudgeon who’s set in his ways. He thinks everything it’s normal. He likes it this way. But Streep is bored. She wants more. She wants him to touch her again. To kiss her again. To look at her like he used to – like he loves her.
At wits end, she books them into intensive couples therapy, much to his chagrin. But off they go to Maine for a week full of sessions with an ace marriage counselor (Carell), who gives them various tasks to complete.
Don’t worry! There’s no nudity or sex acts – not successful ones anyway! These two are very embarrassed about sex and very out of practice doing it. So it’s often played for laughs, with one task Carell sets for Streep in a movie theatre that goes hilariously wrong.
But at heart, Hope Springs is a serious film about a serious subject; the sex lives of older married couples. It’s also perfect for older audiences, and especially older married couples or anyone set in their ways. Indeed, seeing Streep and Jones struggling with their marriage may make you appreciate your marriage.
Well done to director David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada), for getting a taboo topic onto the screen; sex between mature age people. Hope Springs is a real three hander – just Streep, Jones and Carell – so it is quite intimate, talky and gentle.
However, there’s no real peripheral characters, and that’s a pity. Frankel does not include Jones and Streep’s kids much at all. Surely they’d have opinions or try to help save the marriage?
But I don’t really mind that. A marriage is between two people. It’s very private. And often only they can save it. But I did wonder why funnyman Steve Carell is here playing a very straight and boring therapist? It could have been any actor.
Not so for Streep. She creates another curious character; a doting but bored housewife trying to spice things up or end it. She’s so plain, shy and twee. Jones is terrific as the grizzled and reluctant straight shooter, even though he goes from hostile to having all these secret fantasies faster than you can say “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”.
Hope Springs is a lovely old-fashioned love story movie for mature audiences. It reminds me of classic love stories like It Happened One Night, An Affair To Remember and Roman Holiday. It’s not as good as them. It’s not as powerful or as funny as it could be. But it’s not over-the-top either.
It’s gentle and gently paced. It’s warm and realistic. And it reminds us to never take for granted the ones we love.
Score: 7 / 10