Face it, old people bone.
Many years of marriage have left Kay (Meryl Streep) wanting to spice things up and reconnect with her husband Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones). When she hears of a famed relationship guru (Steve Carell) in the town of Great Hope Springs, she must persuade her skeptical husband to get on a plane for an intense week of marriage and sex therapy.
Judging by the first couple of trailers I saw, I was expecting another zany, Streep comedy, where she plays an older gal trying to relive her older days by doing what it is that she wants, when it comes to being between the sheets. In that regard, it reminded me a lot of It’s Complicated, which is a film I laughed at, but still thought was your average, rom-com that nobody thought twice about. That is not necessarily the case here, and that’s what really, really took me by surprise.
Despite being advertised as this totally zany comedy, the film isn’t filled to the core with that. Yeah, there is a couple of funny light moments that really work and made me crack up (one scene in particular where Steep tries oral sex on Jones in a movie theater, which probably gave a lot of people in the theater with me a lot of ideas), but it’s more about the dark, sad truths that come behind relationships and marriages, regardless of how long you have been together.
People, as a whole, grow old. And it doesn’t matter what you try to do with your life to never grow old, but that’s eventually what happens and you can see that especially with this couple of Kay and Arnold. Not only did these two grow old, but they also just grew apart from one another, becoming more of room-mates than actual life-mates. Arnold wakes up everyday, eats the same breakfast combo (one slice of bacon and two eggs, remember that), kisses his wife on the cheek before going to work, comes home from work every night, eats dinner with his wife, goes to watch the Golf channel, falls asleep (typical), and gets awoken by Kay to go up-stairs to his own room, where only he sleeps. This is how his day is every day and it never changes, and it all occurs with barely any talk between him and his wife. What the hell happened between them? Why won’t he just love her? Why doesn’t he talk to her? Why? Why? Why!?!?
Much to my surprise, I was very intrigued by this couple within the first 10 minutes and I kept sitting there to myself wondering just what was up with this obviously, once-loving couple. Director David Frankel is actually more intrigued than anybody else watching this and through the series of non-stop therapy sessions, we see what happened to them, how it all started, who’s to mainly be blamed, and just why they are the way with each other now. The smartest thing that Frankel does other than just let all of these play out, is that he doesn’t take anybody’s side in this relationship. Nope, it’s actually both of their faults for the reasons as to why they aren’t as in love as they once were. I don’t want to give away as to how and why they all of sudden changed things up in their relationship, but what you may find and hear about here are some very honest truths about the way couples begin to act, especially when they have been together as long as 31 years together. Yeesh!
Though, as surprisingly heavy as this film may be, there was still a whole bunch of unneeded rom-com elements that I didn’t feel were really needed. After about the third, awkward sexual scene these two have, I was pretty much getting annoyed by how it seemed like the only way that Frankel could get comedy for this material is by placing a whole bunch of stupid, jokey-jokey sex scenes that didn’t seem to really add much to the film and the ideas, other than show us how old people can’t really be dirty and sexual. Another rom-com formula that also seemed to bother me was the types of songs Frankel used here. A lot of them are a bit too-on-the-nose with certain sad and sappy songs playing whenever either one of them don’t feel loved, and so on and so forth. Basically, the fact that this is a rom-com kind of ruins it but I guess it wasn’t all that terrible to totally destroy the final-product.
But I guess when you have the actors that you have in this film, it doesn’t matter what type of material you have, because it works anyway. Meryl Streep is of course, great as Kay, but this performance is a lot different from what we’ve been seeing from her as of late. There’s a lot more subtlety going on here with her act that really stands-out as we can tell that this girl just wants to be loved and just wants her old relationship back as most people would feel if they started to get in a relationship like the one she’s in. Kay is a character that doesn’t get too up-front with her husband because she’s a bit afraid to ruin any type of chance of intimacy that they may or may not have, and it also shows the effect that this dull relationship may have on her self-esteem and feelings. Streep is great in this role and she gives us a female character that is not only as strong as the male, but also gives us a lot of insight into how our woman feel if we don’t show them the bedroom from time-to-time. Am I right men?
As good as Streep was (and trust me, she was good), I was more involved with Tommy Lee Jones as Arnold and actually found him to be the best thing in this whole flick. Jones starts out as the usual grumpy, stand-offish old man that doesn’t really want anything to do with anybody or anything, he just wants to go about his day the same way he’s been going about it for the last 20 or 30 years. But as time moves on in this flick, we start to see a lot of those walls come down and we see a very lonely and self-conscious guy that doesn’t know what to do with his wife, other than just be a husband and not much else. There’s a lot of moments where Jones nails a lot of the comedic moments, but his emotional moments where we see the character for all that he is, is what really took me by surprise and has me hoping that he decides to take more roles like these in the near-future because isn’t it just a total treat to see this guy shed a tear every once and awhile?
Steve Carrell plays the therapist that somewhat helps this couple out and as successfully deadpan as he can be, truth is, he doesn’t really have that much to do in this film other than to ask these two questions and try to “connect” with them emotionally. Carrell isn’t really ever in this film all by himself and it seems like sort of a waste of a very good actor that shows he can do great things with his roles, even if he isn’t playing his usual, funny-side that we see so very often. It’s not necessarily that this is a criticism of the movie, it’s more that I wish they used him more or if they didn’t want to do that, then they should have just got somebody else that wasn’t such a big-name to do this role in-place of him.
Consensus: Though it follows the same-old, rom-com formula most people hate (and surprisingly love), Hope Springs still succeeds with great performances from Jones and Streep and at showing us the dark and sad truths behind older relationships that can sometimes be healed just by a little communication and most of all, love. Yes, that “L word” always finds itself back.