Saturday, August 11, 2012

Film review: "Hope Springs" (2012)

As you can see to the right of your screen, I've had to update my profile to read "33 year-old."  Which means happy birthday to me!  As part of my fun-filled birthday weekend plan, Scooter and I did our usual cheesecake and Meryl movie combo last night.  We were finished with dinner a little early so we sat outside our theater for a bit while the showing before ours wrapped up.   As the 7:30 Hope Springers exited, I remarked to Scooter that the average age looked to be around 58 and female.  Sadly,  I felt right at home.

If you haven't already seen a synopsis of this film 1) get out from under your rock, and 2) continue reading.   Meryl and Tommy Lee Jones play Kay and Arnold Soames, a married Omahan couple whose relationship has become a tad stagnant.    Kay is particularly unhappy and decides to book a week-long trip in Maine for intensive couples therapy with renowned shrink Dr. Bernie Feld, played by Steve Carell. 

During the first moment of Meryl onscreen I was taken aback by how similar her appearance was to my own mother.  The outfit, necklace, glasses, hair and nose.  Eerily similar in this film to mom.  The other thing I quickly noticed was how Meryl decided to change her voice.  She lightened it in decibel and heightened in tone to depict a person who, very much like her character Linda in The Deer Hunter, deferred to others.  Namely her husband Arnold.

I grew up in the Midwest and I totally know this type of couple.  Married forever, kids are out the house, sex is long gone.  And nothing serious is talked about.   Decades of this pattern have virtually stifled Kay.  Arnold is content to stay quiet, grumpy, watch the Golf Channel, and sleep in a separate bedroom, historically due to his apnea and bad back.   Kay is unsatisfied with this, and after some grumbling and complaining, Arnold decides to join her on the uncomfortable journey of restoring intimacy back into their relationship.

The pair of actors do an exquisite job of portraying a couple with a long history.  I found myself taken through a series of several emotions throughout the film.  I actually laughed out loud at several points, which doesn't happen often for me at movies.  Streep and Jones did particularly good jobs of getting us to feel uncomfortable along with them as they were answering questions from their therapist as pointed as "do you climax." 

After several awkward assignments and conversations, Dr. Feld gets Arnold to get past his anger and tell his wife what he's thinking and feeling.  When they return home to put what they've learned into practice, Arnold quickly regresses to his old pre-Maine, closed off self.  When Kay ultimately realizes that if the status quo continues she won't be able to stay, Arnold comes to his senses and the two of them enjoy an apparently cathartic roll in the hay.  Yay.

In addition to Meryl's typical near perfection, Jones really shines in his role.  He plays Arnold as so damn cranky and frugal.  I remember Meryl saying in a promotional interview that during shooting she encouraged Jones to be as surly as possible, suggesting that is was sort of a Jackie Gleason effect.  The meaner you are, the more they'll like it.   And let's not forget Steve Carell, who was great in an understated, yet very believable role as Dr. Feld.  

This film is no exception when it comes to Meryl convincing me she's someone else.  Not for a moment did I doubt who she was.  Again, I think this was particularly challenging in this film for me, as I feel I know the type of woman she plays so well from my upbringing.  Bigger picture ideas are great to take away from the movie as well.  I don't think it should be considered a film only for seniors.  If anything, I think the message is more poignant for young adults in fledgling relationships.   Remembering that words matter.  Contact is necessary.  That we can't take our partners for granted.  These are not necessarily novel concepts, but seeing it represented in a comedic way, and with Meryl(!) helps as a fun refresher.

Having actually seen the film now, I can totally see how it could reasonably be pushed for acting awards.  Again, considering Meryl's history and the fact that she won the Oscar only in February, I think it's less likely for her than it would be for Jones.  That said, I would be shocked if Meryl weren't nominated (and won, frankly) the Golden Globe for actress in a musical or comedy.   I'm just going to sit back and let the web rumble with rumors and speculation.  As we conclude the Games of the XXX Olympiad this weekend, let the real games begin. 


  1. Good review babe. Cant wait to see it

  2. Glad to see someone in their 30's (albeit you have a website dedicated to Ms Streep, who isn't!) agree with Meryl that this isn't just a film for us in the over 50 set! I think young and old can benefit from seeing a film like this. I've been putting it off since Wednesday's opening, (that I'd planned to attend) but then started reading all the posts/blogs and wasn't sure I could get through it without becoming really emotional. I will see it tomorrow!! Thanks for your blog!

    1. I'm so glad you're going to see the film! You won't be disappointed. Thanks for reading!

  3. I've been looking forward to reading this review for 23 hours... no wait, 25. I'm back on pacific time. Justin must've told me three times yesterday that he'd like to see this movie. And that he loved you and Joe. So worth the wait-- both reading this review, and meeting you! So great to meet you yesterday. Come visit soon :)

    1. Glad you two made it home safely. I was so glad to finally meet you! Justin seems like a really great guy. And he's guys should see this movie. I made Joe go see it with me on the way home from the 90th bday party at Auntie Mary's. He and I would love to make a trip out west sometime soon for a visit! Take care, Alli. And thanks for reading!