Hope Springs is an interesting film. Its content will have you believe it is aimed at an older audience, although the film’s trailer would have you believe Hope Springs is a comedy in order to broaden its base. Surprisingly, after seeing this film, I can tell you that Hope Springs is neither specifically for an older audience or a comedy. It is in fact a remarkably effective cautionary tale for all ages who seek to enter a life-long romantic relationship. Hope Springs refers to the tiny berg in coastal Maine, Great Hope Springs. Here, renowned couples counselor Dr. Feld (Steve Carell) has set up shop for troubled couples to save their marriages in week long intensive therapy sessions. One such couple that needs saving is Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones). The film uses its exposition to illustrate the degradation of romance between Kay and Arnold, including separate bedrooms. However, the film’s true impact comes from the brief counseling sessions with Dr. Feld. These sessions turn a casually effective romantic drama into a full-blown interactive experience. Deep, probing, personal questions are asked of Kay and and Arnold, causing the audience to squirm, not with a sympathy for the characters, but with the awkward discomfort of personal relevance. Venessa Taylor’s screenplay hits more often than it misses. It orchestrates tension and importance over many elements of our lives that can be easily taken for granted. In fact, the film would be even more powerful if not for its overbearing introduction of loud, thematically obvious pop songs over scenes that would be much stronger without any music at all.
It seems trivial to say the acting is great, but when discussing a movie that warns against taking anything for granted, I will say that Jones and Streep are both great in this movie. Streep goes beyond the frustrated housewife into a character that resonates with both desperation and determination at the same time. Jones has it easy in the first act, simply playing up the droning curmudgeon, but this makes his evolution that much more admirable as the film goes on. Steve Carell is easy to overlook as the third wheel to this acting team, but thanks to Taylor’s screenplay his moments on screen are authentic, necessary, and gripping.
Hope Springs does not break new ground, but it strives to make us remember and value our time with the people we love, and it is fairly successful at it. Just remember, if you see it on a date night, be prepared. B+