Based on its marketing campaign, there’s a possibility that Columbia is not particularly trying to get the under-30 market interested in “Hope Springs.” If the youths do not attend, more’s the pity, because they might become enlightened to what their passionate relationships will turn into twenty or thirty years down the road. Or two years, if you go by what some psychologists believe to be the tenure of passion. “Naah, that won’t happen to us” is the usual retort of young people who think that dreaming day and night of their loved ones will go on forever. “That’s my parents’ generation, not us. And we certainly will never get divorced.” It’s good to be optimistic, and then again there are grounds for optimism in this movie by David Frankel, who years back put Meryl Streep to good use in “The Devil Wears Prada” as Miranda Priestly, a cynical magazine editor who would scarcely deign to look at a new hire. “Hope Springs” has the cuddle-factor utilized so well in the director’s “Marley and Me,” about a naughty and neurotic dog who, like Steve Carrell’s character in “Hope Springs” teaches a family some valuable life lessons.
Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) and Kay (Meryl Streep) live in suburbia and have been married for 31 years. Their children have grown up and left home, and she is getting restless in the same old routine every day: cooking him a breakfast of bacon and one egg, which he eats while reading the newspaper. They do not talk except for saying good-bye as he walks out the door.
Arnold is an accountant who met Kay when he was teaching an economics class. He thought she was very pretty and beyond his league. Now they sleep in separate bedrooms and haven’t had sex for five years. Kay decides it is time for her to make a bold move and try to seduce Arnold. But when she enters his room, he guesses that she wants to have sex and turns her down with a lame excuse that his stomach is upset.
Omaha suburbanites Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) have been married for 31 years, and their comfortable Nebraska nest is empty – in more ways than one. Although she timidly ventures from her bedroom to his in an enticing negligee, he’s too engrossed in GOLF magazines to notice; that’s the way it’s been for the past five years. While she yearns for connection, he’s completely closed off.
Working part-time at Coldwater Creek, Kay hears about a week-long couple’s counseling retreat in Great Hope Springs, Maine, that’s hosted by a celebrated pop-psychology therapist. Desperate in her loneliness, she spends $4,000 from her savings to sign them up. Although Arnold, who’s a cheapskate accountant, initially balks, he reluctantly joins her – in body, if not in spirit. So it’s up to Dr. Bernie Feld (Steve Carell) to gently coax them into communicating with each other and re-establishing sexual intimacy.
Arnold (Jones) is a grumpy Omaha tax consultant who has lost all sense of romantic desire for his doting wife Kay (Streep). The movie opens with a telling scene of Kay making a sexual overture to Arnold in his separate bedroom. Arnold reasons that he “ate pork for lunch.” Kay retreats to her own room. Kay and Arnold don’t communicate much since their children flew the coop. Kay looks into a couple’s therapist in the appropriately-named seaside Maine town of Great Hope Springs. Getting Arnold to come along for a weeklong therapy session under Steve Carell’s exquisitely played Dr. Feld, is no simple matter. Streep’s Kay is a resourceful woman.
Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) have been husband and wife for 31 years, but their married life has gone stale both in and out of the bedroom. They even sleep in separate bedrooms. After futile attempts to reignite the spark with Arnold, she seeks the help of a marriage therapist, Dr.Feld (Steve Carell), to try to rejuvinate her marriage. Arnold reluctantly agrees to travel with her to the small town of Hope Springs, Maine to meet with the therapist.
“Hope Springs” boasts strong performances from the always-reliable Meryl Streep who’s quite radiant and charming, Tommy Lee Jones who’s quite convincing as a stubborn, frigid husband, and Steve Carell who plays against type. Radiance and charm can even be found in the small roles, such as a bartender (Elisabeth Shue), a waitress (Becky Ann Baker), an innkeeper (Damian Young) and a clerk (Daniel Flaherty). Streep deserves to at least be nominated for Best Actress because, once again, she sinks her teeth into a meaty character with utter conviction and even excels during the few moments that require physical comedy, i.e. a memorable scene in a movie theater where Kay and Arnold watch the French comedy The Dinner Game. From start to finish, Streep sizzles and has, much like the film itself, a certain “je ne sais quoi.”