The commercials make “Hope Springs” look like some sort of mildly naughty sex comedy about an uptight older-middle-aged couple who rediscover the joys of sex through couples’ therapy. With Steve Carell – that wacky guy! – as the therapist.
And the ads trumpet the fact that it’s from “the director of ‘The Devil Wears Prada.’”
You’re getting the picture – this is a comedy, right? At least that’s what they’re selling you.
So let me just say two things: This is a smart, enjoyable, even moving film.
And it’s not a comedy.
Oh, there are humorous moments and a few moderately large laughs. But it’s also a movie that could bring a lump to your throat, one that inspires reflection about your own relationship and how much you may be taking your partner for granted.
Indeed, after seeing it, I sent a friend whose long-time marriage, shall we say, already has a burning fuse, an e-mail saying, “Under no circumstances should you take your wife to see this – unless you want to argue all the way home afterward.”
In some ways, what writer Vanessa Taylor and director David Frankel have done is fairly straightforward. They take a very specific couple and make them universal. It could be a primer on what couple’s therapy is about, how it works and how the results won’t always be life-changing breakthroughs – at least not right away.
Some may find that to be a cliché. But the truths that they get at can’t be dismissed, because the writing is honest and the performances are so beautifully nuanced.
Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones play Kay and Arnold Soames, who are celebrating their 31st wedding anniversary at home in Omaha. The night before, she spruces up at bedtime and knocks on his door – he’s been sleeping in the guest room for a number of years for his back, snoring and other reasons – to suggest, in her own timid way, a little hanky-panky. When he finally figures out what she’s asking, he puts her off with excuses of not feeling well: “I had pork for lunch,” he mumbles.
She’s unhappy and dissatisfied and finally does something about it: After buying and reading a book by a marriage therapist, she gets up her courage and presents Arnold with a brochure for a week-long session of intensive couples’ marriage therapy, with Dr. Bernard Feld (Steve Carell), the author of the book, at his office in Maine.
This review continues on my website.