'Hope Springs' revives a tired boomer marriage.
Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) have been married for 31 years, and the juice has long gone out of their marriage. Stolid and oblivious Arnold, an Omaha accountant, doesn’t seem to mind much.
Kay, on the other hand, is so desperate to have a real marriage again that she does the near-unthinkable: Using her own savings, she enrolls in a week-long couples-therapy program in Great Hope Springs, Maine, conducted by bestselling psychiatrist Dr. Feld (Steve Carell). Mulishly resistant, Arnold at the last minute agrees to go along.
This is the setup for the rather annoyingly titled drama-comedy “Hope Springs,” and without Streep and Jones, the film might have devolved into a glorified self-help gabfest. Dr. Feld’s sessions are not played for laughs, despite Carell’s participation, and his therapyese can sound awfully glib at times. But Streep and Jones work hard to extricate themselves from the film’s middlebrow trappings. That they almost succeed is a tribute to sheer talent.
Streep last worked for director David Frankel in “The Devil Wears Prada,” where she played a viperish, whispery fashion magazine editor who was about as far removed from Kay as you can get. Kay is a woman who, even while miserable, which is most of the time, sticks to the niceties. There are no scenes in “Hope Springs” where she shrieks at Arnold or threatens to leave him. More than anything else, she is bewildered by what has happened to her marriage, and it’s not entirely clear from Vanessa Taylor’s screenplay (her first) if the marriage was ever all that great.