Hope Springs is a satisfying star vehicle
Starring Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones. Rated PG. Opens Friday, August 10, at the Park Theatre
Older audiences aren’t hitting movie theatres like they used to (who is?), and one reason may be that Hollywood rarely makes satisfying star vehicles like Hope Springs anymore.
Based on an original story by Vanessa Taylor, this thoughtful tale of faded love and vestigial hormones reunites director David Frankel with The Devil Wears Prada star Meryl Streep in a subtly impressive change-of-pace role. Her Kay is a Nebraska housewife who has built her life around the incredibly dull Arnold, a cold, bullying accountant who falls asleep watching golf on TV and has been camping in the guest room for years. He could only be made interesting by Tommy Lee Jones.
Finally, a frustrated Kay signs them up for couples’ therapy with a specialist in Maine, and Arnold goes, grumbling all the way. Steve Carell’s arrival, as the therapist who rakes over their dying embers, could signal comic relief, but the movie doesn’t let them, or us, off the hook. We never quite get to the particular repressions that made Kay and Arnold too ashamed and angry to remember the passions that fuelled their lives before children, but the debilitating effects of age and routine are given remarkably honest airing here, without subplots and goofy side characters to obscure the focus.
It’s a shame, then, that Frankel, also behind smartish films like The Big Year and Marley & Me, felt compelled to slather uplifting pop songs all over the soundtrack. That trick won’t get younger bums into seats, and the older, long-married folks who want to—perhaps need to—see Meryl and Tommy Lee work it out here will already be willing to leave the house for Hope Springs. For one thing, they know it’s a heckuva lot cheaper than therapy, let alone a trip to Maine.
Watch the trailer for Hope Springs.