Hope Springs | Movie review
Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones take up couples therapy. Good for them, not so much for us.
In Hope Springs, Omaha couple Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) reinvigorate their 31-year marriage by flying to Maine and attending two weeks of intensive counseling under the guidance of patient analyst Steve Carell. Good for them, but not so great for us, since watching people attend therapy is generally a drag. This isn’t a psychologically acute study of characters with real depths and tics struggling to understand each other—territory that’s been mapped miraculously by filmmakers as diverse as Bergman and Cassavetes. No, Hope Springs insists on maintaining just enough comedy to keep the project commercial, which essentially means reducing two protagonists with a long-shared history to caricatures. Accountant Arnie acts like an insufferable tightwad about spending on any little thing, while buttoned-up Kay struggles with going down on him during a movie—on doctor’s orders, of course.
The result plays like a PSA for the talking cure and couples retreats, acted out by two world-class talents who contend with this material as if carrying out the terms of a plea bargain. It’s tempting to defend Hope Springs for its sincerity and unfashionable subject matter; Streep’s gravitas and Jones’s trademark skeptical look keep the film engaging to some degree. But those expecting a portrait as indelible as the former’s Anna Wintour gloss in The Devil Wears Prada—her previous collaboration with director David Frankel—may leave needing a vacation of their own.